Should Food Stamp (SNAP) Purchases Be Limited to Healthy Food?

SNAP logo

If you are following the legislative battles in Washington DC over the Farm Bill, the you know one of the most hotly contested issues is the Title IV – Nutrition, dealing with food aid programs, the most famous being “food stamps”. The current name is SNAP – Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

We’re talking big money – In fiscal year 2012, the federal government spent about $81 billion on SNAP.  About 92% went directly to benefits for 47 million Americans that were eligible. That’s about $140 per week per family of 4. SNAP beneficiaries receive what looks like a debit card, with which they pay in supermarkets.

There are arguments for substantial cuts of SNAP, and for increases as well, because as we all know, the economy hasn’t exactly taken off, especially for the poor.

Another area of contention is what the funds can be used for. Today, recipients can purchase soda, candy, and potato chips with SNAP money, alongside more nutritious fare such as produce, eggs, milk, etc…

Should limitations be placed on SNAP purchases?

Arguments against limitations:

  • Limiting the food choices is paternalistic nanny state oversight.
  • Eliminating food choice would create a stigma and shame SNAP beneficiaries.
  • The diets of SNAP participants are generally comparable to the diets of Americans of similar economic means, so why single poor people out?
  • The cost of reprogramming computers and retraining grocery store staff for the hundreds of thousands of food items in stores is prohibitive.
  • Where will the line be drawn between healthy / non-healthy foods? Is a cereal with 12 grams of sugar nutritious? 8 grams? 4 grams? What if it has added fiber?

Arguments for limitations :

  • The intent of SNAP, when it started in 1933, was to match poor folks with surplus commodities, not packaged foods. (Of course back then, almost everyone knew how to cook). Why not go back to the basics and make sure that SNAP is used for fruits, vegetables, and basic foodstuff?
  • SNAP already limits what people can buy: No non-food items. No alcohol. No tobacco. No supplements. No pet food. No food to be eaten in store. No hot foods. That’s quite a lot of programming of a supermarket database to keep it current if you ask us.
  • WIC (Woman, Infant, Child) assistance programs also limit what people can buy. In fact, there are specific lists of what mothers can buy. That list can be the base for SNAP beneficiaries.
  • Reminder: SNAP is taxpayer money that is being allocated for nutrition (the N in SNAP), not junk food company profits. When SNAP recipients use funds to purchase nutrition void food, their health deteriorates. Taxpayer money is then once again allocated when the healthcare system treats obesity related diseases (many SNAP recipients are uninsured or lack good coverage).

What do you think? Should SNAP funds come with nutrition strings attached?

food stamps

  • Homer J

    Absolutely the choices should be limited. To address the potential objections simply consider how you would handle this if you were poor and needed help from a neighbor.

    Limiting the food choices is paternalistic nanny state oversight.
    Limiting choices on drink sizes is ridiculous. That is true nanny-statism. But this is vastly different: You have a choice to accept or reject the FREE food offered by fellow citizens. Would you accuse your neighbor of such things if they only offered you free healthy food?
    Eliminating food choice would create a stigma and shame SNAP beneficiaries.
    What stigma? You are getting free food. You should be grateful.
    The diets of SNAP participants are generally comparable to the diets of Americans of similar economic means, so why single poor people out?
    Because taxpayers are paying for their food.
    The cost of reprogramming computers and retraining grocery store staff for the hundreds of thousands of food items in stores is prohibitive.
    It would be worth it to help those people. And it would save on the medical costs.
    Where will the line be drawn between healthy / non-healthy foods? Is a cereal with 12 grams of sugar nutritious? 8 grams? 4 grams? What if it has added fiber?
    The details could be worked out.

    I would make things really simple and focus on things like oatmeal, milk, bread, cheese, fruits, etc. And I wouldn’t let them have cards that they could sell for cash and use it for drugs, cigarettes, bad food, etc. Part of our problem is that by trying to save money with technology (normally a good thing!) we’ve made it too easy to abuse the program. That kills the cost savings.

  • Do-Right

    Yes. Why are tax payers supporting more medical problems down the road for people on tax payer insurance also! We are already supporting drug dealers who accept the cards for payment. Yes, wake up snap program! Should be forced to show photo ID with each use! We are also supporting dead beat dads who don’t work or pay child support but live off the system! No incentive there. Time to fix these free-bees!

  • Mary B

    Limit the food choices of SNAP participants? Absolutely not. Why? Because shelf stable foods, as unhealthy as they might be, are the most easily accessible to the poor. Do any of you on here realize all the middle-class trappings required to buy/cook/store “healthy” food?

    Generally you have to buy quite a few more fruits and veggies to equal the caloric content of a box of mac n’ cheese. All the sudden you need a car to bring home all your bags of groceries. Oh, you had to sell your car to pay your medical bills? Too bad. I guess you will just have to spend your day making multiple trips on foot (no matter the weather)between grocer and home to get your bags home–unless the same folks who want to put further limitations on SNAP feel like subsidizing taxi fares.

    Of course even if you get your fruits/veggies/eggs/cheese/milk home you kind of need a working/reliable fridge to store them in. That’s a little hard to count on, if you are always in danger of your electricity being shut off because you were unable to scrape together enough money to pay the last few months of utility bills.

    I am horrified by what processed food/giant food corporations have done to the collective health of our nation. And I would love for everyone have equal access to healthy, nourishing food. But further stigmatizing our most impoverished and vulnerable citizens by limiting their SNAP choices is not the solution. A person’s “freedom” to “make choices” is almost always defined and limited by their economic means. Please remember that.

    • agree to disagree

      You know my husband and I fall into the poor category and have lived in extreme situations. We are good hardworking people. But when the economy took a nose dive and he got laid off he found it incredibly hard to find a decent paying job. We too struggled to keep food on the table and the lights on. And we have absolutely zero help so its even harder. No parents to lean on. But soda is not an option for my kids. Water does not need a refrigerator and they each have a water bottle they use daily . many fruits do not require refrigeration. They make peanut butter now that is mostly natural without a hefty list of ingredients that is also shelf sustainable. I also have to walk more often than not to the store , kids in tow . I am not saying that your points are invalid. But there are better decisions we can make. And I make better decisions than most of not middle class friends .

      • Shgraha

        That’s exactly what I’m talking about, if one doesn’t have the means like SNAP or whatever the govt. hands out then you make do just to get by. Agree to disagree has the right idea. You survive and go on with it. No pity party for those of us that have to pay for everything with hard earned money. If one is down and out, yes get help but only temporary not for life. That’s only if you want help, but if your pride wont let you, then more power to you. I was a single mother of two and my kids didn’t get name brand clothes, or pizza’s every weekend, or electronic games etc. New clothes yes but the cheapest I could afford and never got help. They survived and so did I. Worked my butt off but survived nonetheless.

    • Shgraha

      And who may I say put you in that position?????

  • Eloise

    Yes! I think this is a good step and a convenient one to inform people about what these foods contain, who is behind it and why we shuold know about them!

    • Eloise


  • Brian Klein

    Beggars can’t be choosers. But I don’t like prohibiting certain things… for instance, I could see the government wanting to limit high fat foods because they are seen as unhealthy (I don’t believe they are, but that’s a different topic), and then telling the customers that they can’t purchase butter, making them purchase a margarine that is laden with trans-fats instead.

    • Brianne

      That’s a great point Brian. An example of this is wic. A women can recieve peanut butter but can not buy the natural kind without all the artificial ingredients that are proven harmful to our health. But I do think there should be limitations. However I believe great care needs to be taken in the wording of the limitations. Saying no high fat Like you point out puts a blanket grouping all high fat foods together . This type of grouping fails to recognize that olive oil or avocados are vastly different from donuts or potato chips.I personally think that truly unhealthy foods should be unable to be purchased with the cards. We are an obese nation with an array of disease linked to our foods and obesity. These same people will be on medicaid getting medicine paid for by the same government assistance. So maybe its time to start reprogramming the way we all think of foods and rights and start learning to cook. Do we have the right to live an unhealthy life that makes us sick until we die? Yes of course. But we should be encouraging the right to live a healthy life and be in control of how we feel.

      • Brian Klein

        I agree… it’s a tricky line to toe. Since tax payer dollars are behind it, I have no problem with them limiting foods, I would just hope that they are wise with their decisions, and not kowtowing to big business (food pyramid, anyone?) I would have a problem with a “fat tax” for instance, or limiting the size of sodas. As well intentioned as those policies are, they really aren’t helping to promote health. It’s a free world after all, and people are allowed to be as sick as they want to be. This would be a reason why healthcare should be paid for by individuals, and not the government.

        Such a complex subject!!

        • Erin

          Not tricky at all. Does it look like it might have in the field? Yes- OK. Is it a kitchen staple like flour, sugar, or salt? OK. Is it a precooked meal? NO.

    • Michele Hays

      Don’t you think the phrase “beggars can’t be choosers” is more than a little insensitive?

      Keep in mind that WIC already has a nutrition support program with specific food limits that seems to be working very well.

      • Brian Klein

        It is insensitive, and I apologize for that… It’s the first thing I thought of, so it’s what came out. I stand by the meaning behind it, though. I don’t think people should be allowed to buy soda, candy, and the like with taxpayer supported programs. I grew up on a WIC and food stamp supported childhood, and could have benefitted from some restrictions, as my parents felt the need to buy all kinds of junk food.

      • Erin

        I would NOT pattern it off of WIC- the are too heavy on dairy, and what if people are allergic? Limit things to fresh foods and stapes, like pasta and flour…. things our grandmothers stocked in the pantry and did well on. Candy, chips, soda, juice- totally not necessary. Whole foods and pantry staples. If you want cookies, make ‘em yourself.

        • KayoriAyane

          “Candy, chips, soda, juice- totally not necessary” – I agree on the first 3, but with a 1 year old toddler a bottle of pure juice without added ingredients is a good thing. Because unfortunately, I don’t have the resources or money to buy a juicer to use on whole fruit and veggies to make her a bottle of pure fruity bliss.

        • Dougms

          Plus, to me Cranberry juice is good for UTI’s even if it is full of sugar.

  • Howie g

    People can buy and eat whatever they want. They can choose to buy ‘junk food’ they can choose to buy sugary soda. But – if they want these items, they need to use the money the earn and buy them. The arguments against limitations listed above are ridiculous.

    “The diets of SNAP participants are generally comparable to the diets of Americans of similar economic means, so why single poor people out?” – they aren’t being singled out. They can buy whatever they want, just not with gov’t money (our money). And, to me, this is an argument to limit what can be purchased. When did two wrongs make a right? I must have missed that memo…

    “Limiting the food choices is paternalistic nanny state oversight.” – SNAP reform will not limit food choices – SNAP participants can spend the money they earn to buy anything they want.

    “Where will the line be drawn between healthy / non-healthy foods? Is a cereal with 12 grams of sugar nutritious? 8 grams? 4 grams? What if it has added fiber?” They seemed to figure out the lines for WIC – the most successful nutrition program in the USA – I’m sure we can figure out the ‘lines’ for SNAP – how about use dietary guidelines to start. If it’s in the “eat more” category it’s covered, otherwise, not.

    The question is – does the ‘government’ (or congress, mainly) really want these people to have access to ‘healthy’ foods and knowledge about how to eat a “healthful’ diet? When big pharm and big ag and big food biz is stuffing their pockets full of money – I’m not too sure they want to rock the boat.

    • momof2

      howie maybe you should investigate before talking. i work and my husbands on ssi if we didnt have food stamps we wouldt have food. and thats with a job and my son is autistic and will only eat certain foods so if that was to happen my son wouldnt eat. and im sorry but i would rather my kid eat then starve so get your head out of your ass and fall off your high horse.

  • judy

    Mary B- It sounds like you and I have the same concept of what healthy food is, but honestly I think in the context of this debate many of the foods deemed “healthy” would include highly processed, shelf stable food. Sadly, that is inexpensive and affordable on food stamps. Wouldn’t it be funny if limitations were put in place and dieticians decided that a healthy diet consisted of only lovely organically produced fresh meats, produce and dairy products. And delicious wild caught fish! Then the food stamp program would have to ante up for that!!! There is no consensus in North America as to what constitutes a healthy diet so this is ridiculous!

  • KYhealthykids
    • Cactus_Wren

      == “Poor kids should not be allowed treats.”

      • Emily

        Why do treats have to be = to unhealthy food? Is it only a treat if it does nothing for our bodies?

        • Cactus_Wren

          Ah, so you want the government to decide what’s an appropriate treat — but only for poor children.

          • Emily

            Being rich or poor isn’t the point of thinking that treats can be healthy- however, It’s a parent’s role to decide what is an appropriate snack- the gov. isn’t telling you what food you can buy in general, but which nutrient foods you can buy on the tax payer’s dime. This is an assistance program. If you buy the bulk of your groceries with the money, then the $.25 bag of chips or what have you shouldn’t seem wholly unreasonable.

          • agree to disagree

            People can buy whatever they want. They just shouldn’t do it with assistance
            Do you help meth addicts score their meth? Whose to say that people who can’t afford meth and rich people should? I don’t think people should get assistance buying themselves or their kids highly addictive food. These kids are developing the habits they will carry with them throughout their lives. Set them up for success . I had to be on the program years ago and never bought junk food. I was embarrassed to see other people on it and what they put in their carts. Judgmental? Yes it absolutely is. I have kids and work with kids and damaging affects of poor quality food. Which btw is rarely given in the fashion of what could be considered a treat. Everyday all day is a meal plan not a treat. So nope I won’t tell other parents what food to feed their kid but I don’t want to supply poor quality nutrition to anyone.

          • agree to disagree

            This should read people who can’t afford meth shouldn’t be able to use it but those who can should.

          • Cactus_Wren

            Oh, for Christ’s sake. Food isn’t an addiction, nor is it inherently lethal. Are you familiar with Ellyn Satter’s “Heirarchy of Food Needs”? The simple reality is that “instrumental” food — food selected to serve a particular purpose, such as being “nutritious” or being “low-calorie” — is always, ALWAYS going to be a lower priority than appealing and tasty food. Or regularly available food. Or simply HAVING food.


          • Lauren

            Or having Food? No one is going to wrestle you to the ground and take your food, the argument is turning the staple products away from chips to….possibly veggies. There are also plenty of high caloric nutrient dense foods out there.

          • Cactus_Wren

            Yes, HAVING food — why do you think people apply for SNAP in the first place? Because they’re concerned about having ENOUGH TO EAT.

          • agree to disagree

            Bologna , food most certainly is an addiction for many people . refusing to believe it is not is part of the problem. But that is neither here nor there. My point is governmental aid shouldn’t be for unhealthy purchases and no one will starve if they eat an apple over chips.

  • Michele Hays

    TANF does provide cash assistance that families can manage on their own; it can be used to buy foods that wouldn’t otherwise meet nutritional standards – families do have other options to buy food. WIC is an excellent program, and I think a good model to use for “healthy” versus “unhealthy.”

    Something else to think about: SNAP drives food purchases in high-poverty areas. Since shelf-stable “fringe foods” are high-margin, popular, and cheap to stock, SNAP in its current iteration incentivizes food sellers in poor areas to create food deserts. Conversely, the same businesses whose monies come largely from SNAP would have to improve their product line to get those dollars.

  • Healthymotivator12

    I believe junk food is a luxury sort of like beer and cigarettes.

  • Mary Beth Elderton

    I do not think there should be restrictions on SNAP purchases unless we are going to commit to subsidizing healthy foods. As long as we are supporting through taxes the growing of corn, wheat, and soy to provide cheap ingredients for cheap food, that is what is most readily available to feed a family of four for $140.

    • Emily

      MB, just felt the need to point out it’s the “Supplemental” Nutrition program – it’s not expected to pay your whole grocery bill, just fill in the gaps.

    • Erin

      I can feed a family of four on $70 a week using staples and fresh foods. This poor people need poor food thing is BS

  • Sharyn Guthrie

    I definitely think purchases should be restricted to whole foods, staple type products. I work for the WIC program and I can say that I see about 15-20% of my clients actually implement change to their eating habits. In WIC, nutrition education is a key component of eligibility. If the purchasing guidelines for SNAP change, then there must be a support system in place (in every county) for these families to learn cooking, meal planning, shopping, and food storage skills. Many of these families are 2nd or 3rd generation public assistance participants, they really don’t know what to do with real food. Savings on SNAP benefits would be put to much better use for life skills education and community-building. I would be interested to see how many people keep their SNAP assistance if they could not buy junk food and convenience foods ;)

    • Cactus_Wren

      Soylent Green?

    • Do-Right

      Agreed. That could weed out the ones who really need it from those who just abuse it and aren’t “starving”. And would deter trading them for Others may not be as interested in accepting as trades for drugs,payments, etc. Happens way more than many think, coming from direct source working with inmates. But that leads to more…photo id should be required, drug testing should be required,etc. Just like having a real job.

      • KayoriAyane

        The drug tests should just be issued within a certain time period, and not give the applicants the opportunity to allow the drug to leave their system.

  • Jess

    My family was on SNAP benefits temporarily last year when we hit a crisis, and to hear the attitudes of some people is just horrifying. 1 – Those who lead with “my taxpayer dollars.” Guess what? TONS of working people who pay taxes are in the SNAP program. So it is their tax dollars as well. 2- When you start to try to dictate what is “healthy” and “unhealthy” there is so much of a gray area and so many different ways to go with that it is completely impractical. Who is to say the box of Kraft Mac N’ Cheese is any worse for you than pesticide and GMO ridden produce or chemical laden meat? 3- Why should people on government assistance be forced to have diets different than the rest of America just because they need a little help? Not everyone is a drug dealer, program abuser or complete bum and it is terrible that people lump all “poor” into a bad category like that. Shame on you, plenty of honest and hardworking citizens need help who just can’t make enough money to support themselves. 4- Those who are for these limitations are assuming that everyone has the time and resources to cook food for themselves and/or families. Seriously? Do you always have time to cook EVERY NIGHT, or does your personal chef do that for you? What about the parents who work their butts off in crap jobs and after a 13 hour day don’t have the energy to make a casserole out of the vegetables/meats/whatever that they are rationed and would just like to pop in a microwave pizza, hang out with their family and get some rest. (Yes, that was us. We ate healthy, but we also ate junk at times JUST LIKE YOU.)

    I could go on and on about this. Thankfully we don’t need it any more, but I’m so tired of the whole government assistance vs taxpayers debate and the constant need to dictate and control everything and everyone.

    • Jess

      Oh yeah, and to add to this because of the people who tout WIC as being so awesome. Do you know how much fruits/vegetables are allotted each month on WIC? A whole $10. The rest is for milk (no doubt full of nasty chemicals), cheese and bread. Talk about making America obese. Nothing but dairy and bread with a tiny bite of veggies. Yum!

    • Erin

      I was also on assistance. I made stuff from scratch. I dedicated my time ad energy on making nutritious and cheap food for my family instead of seeing it as drudgery, and plopping down in front of the TV like my neighbors did. Even if you work 60 hours a week (like I did when I was not on assistance) you have time to make a giant pot of really good stew.

      I;m sick of the excuses. That’s all it is. Processed food is NOT cheaper, and it’s NOT a solution.

      • amen sister

        Erin I’m reading all your comments and love your passion. You are debunking the myth that eating right and being poor are oxy Morons and as someone who has been on food stamps more than once I am so grateful to hear someone who thinks like me in that regard. I never bought junk packaged foods. I too feel like cooking isn’t that hard. On nights when I’m really exhausted we either pull out leftovers or graze on fruits and carrot sticks or something.

    • randomguy48

      This cracks me up. People getting angry about the idea of restricting things they are getting for free. Look how spoiled you are. In the past people had to go out and find their own food or starve if they were poor. Now they have it given to them and they will complain if you take away their soda. When people talk about the entitlement mentality this is what they mean.

      If the government limited it to say rice, potatoes, veggies, and chicken/pork. I would bet they could spend much less per household and people would be getting more nutrition. While at the same time giving people an incentive to get back to work.

  • vwbug1083

    I’ll admit I’m on this program and I do feel it should face limitations. Enforcing stricter guidelines would change the economy immensely. The poor wouldn’t have as high of medical bills. They would do better academically. They would have stronger family bonds as they would have to prepare meals together. The fraud many commit of buying food for people not intended for would lose its appeal. Selfishly I will also add that I believe it would reduce litter around my low income apartments.

  • Emily

    Careful, you’re asking the government to get out of bed with Kraft and Coke, pull its collected head out of its nether-regions and think for itself.

    Dangerous ground…

    • Emily


  • DarrylM

    The cost of reprogramming computers and retraining grocery store staff for the hundreds of thousands of food items in stores is prohibitive.
    done. It won’t happen for that reason alone.

    • Erin

      That’s BS. The programming goes off of gross categories like grocery, produce, bakery, meat. Then there are subcategories. It’s a simple matter of scanning stuff in. This is done twice a year in the form of inventory anyway, and the categorizing is done by the grocery stores, not the government. The government simply says it won’t pay for certain categories. When the register rings a product up, it communicates with the SNAP system and it filters out the unaccepted categories and rings up the SNAP and cash totals. This argument is complete bunkus.

  • Irreverent Alien

    I am against it out of principle, as I believe it is not the governments work to regulate what everyone eats. (Otherwise the government will not be snooping only in our emails, but also in our cook books and fridges. No one wants that. And if I see what kind of staff runs around in the present day FDA and USDA, which would most likely be the agencies setting parameters of what is healthy enough for WIC or SNAPs green listing, i really don’t know if they are that qualified)

    I was and am against banning foie gras in California and in Chicago, then its only logical to be against banning unhealthy food for the people on government assistance. Regulate the poor in what they can and cannot eat, but do not regulate the rich? Paternalistic, social classist and probably even racist would be the sticker on this idea.
    It is true that benefits can be used in Whole Foods, but if one remembers the one Hispanic family in the movie Food inc. that even when trying hard to eat healthy, realized that it was cheaper to feed everyone with food from McD’s. Hence it seems that eating junk food is not only a pleasure but also an economical decisions.

    Hence it is the executive and legislative powers responsibility to level the playing field so that healthy food is not more expensive than junk food. And again its the educational and transparency approach I want to see here.
    - Labeling of all GMO’s should increase market share and also economies of scale for companies that do not use them, hence making such products cheaper
    - regulation of people switching back and forth between food lobbyists, government positions and big ag companies. total transparency when it comes to lobbying jobs before a political run
    - spend money necessary to make all food available in school a healthy one. no vending machines, etc. (adults choosing soda pops are choosing as a conscious decision, our kids in kindergarten and primary school cant choose if they do not know the difference). We owe this to the next generation.

    - no subsidies to GMO corn and soy if there are no subsidies to organic and conventional farmers. The same goes to feedlots, mass slaughterhouses (killing factories), etc.
    - labeling in front of package with a traffic light system as written about recently in this forum

    At the end it all boils down to this. Obesity is a society problem not only a poor part of the society problem. Banning the poor to eat what they feel like to buy, is too much of a higher powers intervention, with doubtful benefit, that carries to high of a sticker price in costs, civil liberties, etc. to support.

    • Mostly Agreed

      I agree with most of what you’re saying. I am absolutely for the unlimited freedoms given to Americans by our Constitution. Nothing seems to be gettingunder my skin more recently than all that is coming out about Big Brother looking over our shoulders at every part of our lives.
      However, the difference between regulating SNAP purchases and having other private matters being watched by the government is the willing participation by those enrolled in SNAP. If they do not want their purchases limited or watched, then no one is forcing them to enroll. However, if they would like to enjoy the free money provided to them, then they should abide by the rules. The “rich” aren’t being regulated in this case, because they aren’t willingly enrolling in a program that requires regulation.
      I know that sounds harsh, but I really am trying to look at both sides compassionately. I’m trying to say that there must be a balance. With no regulation, there is program abuse. With too much, it does become paternalistic and unnecessary. However, where do we draw the line? Ultimately, we have to realize that those wanting to be a part of the program should realize that there are perameters to be followed- simple life lesson.

      • Irreverent Alien

        Even though the regulation of purchases under SNAP or the snooping in emails seem different in first sight, they are in essence the same. Some government official determining how we live our lives, basically playing god over our destiny. The modern democratic society however foresees the individual being able to take life choices protected under pretty much any constitution in the democratic world, not only in the “craddle of freedom” as some refer to when talking of the US.
        When you voluntarily sign up for a passport or a voters card or any other document making you an individual citizen of the country you chose, you are signing up to following the constitution and its subsidiary laws as well as your rights. You can choose to not vote or sign off the citizenship if you do not like what comes with it.
        However I do not remember the laws in question determining that the government in person of an, in the best case, under-educated clerk at the FDA can determine that raw milk is unhealthy for me, when people in other countries consume it constantly and do not suffer any other consequences from it, except of having in general a better health due to consumption of more natural foods. (Prosciutto is another example. Italian recipes are 2000 years old, but only 25 years ago FDA determined it was safe to consume a meat that is not cooked by their definition of what cooked is)
        I also do not remember signing up to a system where some John Smith at the NSA is reading all of my emails and surely also what I am writing right now in the name of protecting me and the society of people that question this very society and its mechanisms. (Democracy also entails the freedom to question the powerful, but that is a different topic)
        Indeed programs like SNAP, WIC, and all other programs should have regulations but they need to be the least invasive in the individual rights as possible. But if you open the dam for regulation of permitted drinks and foods, where do you stop. Soon the assistance programs will regulate that any assistance money cannot be used to buy gasoline for a gas guzzler, buy brand clothing, use the express bus opposed to the regular bus, etc. because some populist politician thought that idea sounds good too and makes him/her look hard on pilfering.
        I have never been on assistance in the US, but have reaped benefits of free public education in German universities. I felt the responsibility to finish as quick as possible, because I was studying on other peoples dime. A lot of other students did not give a dam and took their time on a free ticket. Would that call for ending the free university education. Punish the whole society for the failings of a few. Would the German society as a whole suffer more from the slackers or from the lack of a free higher public education?
        I also beg to differ on your point about how the assistance programs are not forced upon the people. They certainly are. But not by someone.They are forced to enter this programs due to their economic situation (how people end up in poverty is another question to long to discuss here and out of the topic).

        • Erin

          Your analogy is flawed. I have been on the system, and and limiting pre-packaged, processed foods does nothing to eliminate choices. You can still make them in your own kitchen. I voluntarily only bought staples like rice, beans, flour, sugar, whole bean coffee, and fruits, veggies, and real meat (not bologna), made my meals at home. I did very well, and in most months got all of my food for 2 people for $150 or less a month. And did this buying as much organic as I could. I’ll admit, I’m really good at grocery shopping, but I cared because I wanted to be able to afford to replace things if the power went off or I left a whole pot of something or burned something.

          What we are talking about is restricting junk food like pastries, candy, soda, and diet drinks. I’d put juice in there too. Folks in Germany didn’t have that immediately after Weimar, did they? I’m sure they wouldn’t have complained if they got a nice loaf of Vollkornbrot instead of a cinnamon roll too. This is not about “beggars can’t be choosers” This is about the idea that you don’t have money and your food should go as far as you can because you are taking someone else’s resources. Yes I paid into the system so if anyone had the gall to try and shame me, I told them what for. At the same time, I realized that having the system is a blessing and that I shouldn’t waste things just because I want to have potato chips like my richer neighbor. That I needed to be frugal because I am not the only person who needs help.

  • Ann

    It should say there are specific lists for WIC participants. Fathers and grandparents are more than welcome to use the vouchers WIC provides to get food for their children.


    I think anyone can agree that there is no easy, uncomplicated solution to this question. To make a decision, I believe we have to decide the overall goal of this program. Is it to provide those who truly are in need with a little extra grocery money? Then the answer is to just help them financially with their food purchases.
    However, I do not think that the goal is, or should be, just that. I believe that the goal of this and similar programs should be to aid those who are in need by realizing three overall topics: the financial inability of the participants to buy sufficient food, the nutritional needs of the participants, and the financial responsibility of both participants and overseers to efficiently manage the program.
    I know what you’re thinking- those are broad topics to make law around! I know. I believe that the 3 points above should be the guidelines by which we make decisions about the program- without singling one out. That is to say, we should not simply give money to recognize finacial need- that provides room for too much program abuse, leading to this discussion in the first place. Likewise, we cannot only recognize the nutritional needs of these people- being realistic, the little money provided will not go near as far as it would have to buy less healthy food, and we’re all human; we can’t expect these people to eat perfectly. All that to say, I believe that the responsible, realistic resolution is BALANCE. There SHOULD be some limitations to purely unhealthy food purchases. Not because, “I’m so appalled as a taxpayer, and you shouldn’t be using my money to buy twinkies,” but because it can be shown that twinkies offer NO nutritional value- economically, they are a waste of the money that could have purchased substance that would provide health benefits.
    In summary, BALANCE is the answer. Providing no limitations does nothing to aid in the health of those needing the services, while placing too many limitations is unrealistic in the cheap, overly-processed food country that we live in. I think striking a balance may help the “taxpayers” (myself included) feel a little more at ease as to how their money is being spent, while avoiding over-limiting will not take away from the freedoms of the individuals using the program. On a side note, I support what Sharyn stated earlier: placing limitations and requiring more healthy and whole food choices would absolutely require education as to how to make these choices, and how to cook them. This should be a prerequisite to the program. I know, it would cost more money, but would healthier choices provide less health care cost in the long run? *Getting off of my tangent* All these solutions have merit, but should be done with balance and compromise- no answer is going to be perfect. Instead, let’s aim to meet all three needs that I stated at the beginning.
    Now the question, as many have already stated, who should/could decide where this line is to be drawn with all of these health vs financial choices? Politicians? *shudders*

  • Denise Gray

    I have worked for Head Start in PA for over 13 years. The families I work with are SNAP recipiants. Of these families, probably 10% use SNAP properly. Most of these non working mothers are feeding their children from freezer to microwave. Every year more and more 3 year olds enter the program not knowing how to use silverware, use a napkin, or sit at a table to eat a meal. I strongly believe the SNAP program should follow WIC’s lead in narrowing the field of foods to be purchased.

  • Cactus_Wren

    A government survey from the late-’90s found that meats accounted for
    34.9 percent of food stamp purchases, grains 19.7 percent, fruits and
    veggies 19.6 percent, and dairy products 12.5 percent. Soft drinks made
    up 5.6 percent and sweets 2.5 percent.

    If the government decides to restrict purchases to “wholesome” food, it won’t be easy.

    “No clear standards exist for defining individual foods as ‘healthy’
    or ‘unhealthy,’ and federal dietary guidance focuses on an overall
    dietary pattern — that is, a total diet approach — that promotes
    moderation and consumption of a variety of foods without singling out
    individual foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad,’” the Food Research and Action
    Center said in a January report.

    “Consider the following examples: some candy bars have fewer calories
    from fat than a serving of cheddar cheese, and soft drinks have less
    fat and sodium per serving than some granola bars,” the report
    continued. “If the focus for restrictions was foods high in fat and
    sodium, would candy bars and soft drinks be eligible but cheddar cheese
    and some granola bars ineligible?”

    • Fooducate

      Of course we’re not objective, but Fooducate could be the standard used for healthy foods. The soft drink and candy bar examples don’t pass our nutrition algorithm…

  • Informed

    But in reality,people on SNAP cannot buy whatever they want, as so many have put it. Remember, these are very poor people and many of them live in food deserts (areas w/ limited healthy food options, e.g., convenience stores, fast food, etc.). In
    addition, many poor people don’t have all the necessities to create meals for
    themselves. Many lack stoves, refrigerators, ovens, pots, pans and dishes.
    These items also cost money. Rather than cause more problems for people who already have a lot of problems, we could do a lot more good if we improved the economic status of those who are impoverished in combination with improving the quality of our foods sources.

  • Brandy

    I’ve recently became a cashier at a Sams club after loosing my MA job. It is sad and pathetic what these people buy with their food stamp card. Yes, everyone should be able to buy food but when my husband and I are working our asses off to pay our bills, and we don’t qualify for any government help, it pisses me off. People come through my line with hundreds of dollars worth of JUNK. Cases of monster, soda, $80 dollar packs of crab legs, 114 dollars worth of Filet mignon, premade cakes, prepackaged dinners, premade pancakes, I mean the list goes on and on. While I was out of work we could barely pay our house payment and bills. Our children lived on spaghetti and ramen noodles because that was all we could afford. There were nights when we went without anything to eat so our children could. Even now we don’t have very much for our grocery bill, we can only buy necessities. Why is it that we work our behinds off everyday to pay for everything ourselves but the family that has six children and doesn’t work gets everything for free AND eats better than we do? If you want to buy crab legs and steak, then get a job! Its BS and something needs to be done about it.

  • Cathy Wojcik

    I do think it should be like wic. State money under state control. This would reduce over weight, which would reduce medical cost. Saving the tax papers money.