by Isabelle Z.
(NaturalNews) On April 1, more than half a million Americans lost their food stamp benefits as new government regulations came into effect. According to the new rules, people who want to keep their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for more than three months, must work, volunteer, or else enroll in a job training program for at least 20 hours per week. These rules apply to able-bodied adults between the ages of 18 and 49 who do not have children.
Work requirements were waived for SNAP in 2008 because of the financial crisis, but these requirements are now reappearing in many states. Estimates show that as many as a million people could lose their food stamp benefits by the end of the year as a result.
Requiring people to look for work is a good start, but there are several missed opportunities here. Why not teach these people how to eat healthier and become more self-sufficient?
Obesity is already out of control in America
One big problem with the SNAP system is that it enables people to buy unhealthy food that only contributes to this issue. Giving people who are already obese free access to junk food is not a solution. If the government truly wants to help people and not simply line the pockets of big food corporations, why not educate them about healthy eating as part of the program, and put restrictions in place so that the benefits cannot be used to buy junk like Doritos and Oreos?
A very interesting study carried out by the Stanford Prevention Research Center that was published in Health Affairs, found that banning the purchase of sugary drinks using SNAP benefits would slash rates of obesity and diabetes.
That study's lead author, Sanjay Basu, said: "Restricting or removing the subsidy that SNAP provides for sugar-sweetened beverages would be very likely to reduce type-2 diabetes and obesity among low-income Americans."
They also estimated that giving a reward of 30 cents for each dollar that SNAP participants spent on fruits and vegetables would double the number of people meeting the daily recommendations for fruit and vegetable intake. It is believed that such a change would increase each individual's consumption of produce by a quarter of a cup daily on average.
The only items that are currently restricted on SNAP are tobacco, alcohol and hot foods prepared in-store. Junk food and sofa are fair game; this is ironic considering the name of the program refers to "Nutrition Assistance," and soda does not have any nutritional value.
According to the CDC, more than a third of American adults are currently obese. According to estimates, more than half of the American population will be obese by the year 2030. If obesity were to remain at the levels noted in 2010, it is estimated that savings on medical expenditures over the next two decades would amount to nearly $550 billion.
Help people help themselves
The USDA reports that SNAP participation has risen by more than 1,470 percent since the year 1969. Federal funding for SNAP reached a whopping $74 billion in 2015. Why is more not being done to curb this out-of-control system?
If the government really wants to help hungry people, why not teach them how to be self-sufficient by growing their own food? A program like the Home Grown Food Summit could really empower needy people to feed themselves and boost their nutrition and overall health.
While food stamps can be a useful way of helping people who truly have no other means of getting food, the program could use a major overhaul if it really wants to help people eat nutritious foods and curb the nation's obesity problem.