BY: SAMANTHA LOPEZ
SNAP, the supplemental nutrition assistance program, aids eligible low-income families and individuals with nutrition purchases, such as groceries. Commonly known as food stamps, the nationwide program started in the ‘70s and recipients can buy household food items but are not allowed to purchase tobacco and alcohol under SNAP.
With no current restrictions on junk food, recipients can use their entire budget to solely purchase chips, cookies and soda if they like. Fast food restaurants have even begun to accept EBT, which is a payment card under SNAP.
It’s understandable that junk food and fast food are the fastest and easiest way to go if you need to grab a quick meal, but people have to be aware of how their purchases will affect their families and themselves.
Wisconsin and Florida are two states that have proposed bills limiting the amount of junk food that SNAP recipients can purchase. This push in a healthier direction is a great way to improve the SNAP program.
According to a report by FeedingAmerica.com, children are the main consumers of products that are purchased with SNAP at almost 50%. If children are mostly consuming junk food, this could lead to health problems such as obesity and diabetes.
Thinkprogress.org reports that obesity rates among under-privileged children have been on a slight decline but obesity rates among African American and Hispanic children still remain high.
Mother Darlene Nunez, 27, believes the SNAP program should have restrictions on junk food to benefit the health of children.
“If kids are eating too much junk food, they are going to have more health problems and will have to see a doctor more often, which means more money issues,” Nunez said.
She also believes that junk food should be eaten as a treat or reward.
“If you are buying those items with your own money, then buy as much as you want. But if you need food, I don’t think you should be worried about that Snickers,” said Nunez.
Anti-hunger groups are strongly opposed to placing any kind of restrictions on SNAP because they believe the important factor is that people are being fed, not the type of food that is being eaten.
However, anti-hunger groups should also consider the healthiest options for the people they are supporting. Of course we want people to be fed, but do we want SNAP contributing to the health problems of our communities?
Sociology major Scott Toop believes putting restrictions on junk food and fast food is not a fair plan for families. “A single mother working two or three jobs that only has 20 minutes to get dinner for her kids cannot cook a meal in that time and will use fast food places to provide a meal,” Toop said.
Of course fast food every now and then isn’t a completely terrible thing, but it becomes harmful when it becomes the main staple in a person’s diet.
Children, and adults, need to see different meal options as part as their diets. If a child mostly sees fast food, as an adult they will be more likely to turn to fast food as their main meals. This can turn into a cycle of unhealthy eating if they pass down their eating habits to their children.
A complete ban on junk food would not be a fair course of action, but a limit on junk food purchases can benefit families. If a family reaches their limit on the amount of junk food snacks they can purchase, it will give them the opportunity to place healthier options, like fruits and vegetables, in their shopping carts.
Parents and children alike have to become educated on the healthiest food options that are available for their money and time budgets.
The restriction on junk food is not to punish or deprive SNAP recipients from having any junk food, but rather a plan to improve their eating habits. The push in a healthier direction is to have better food options in households so that adults and children can live healthier, longer lives.