But while there will always be those advocates for the hungry who say that federal and state governments should do more to make sure needy families receive food they need, there are more critics than ever questioning the program.
Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity estimates that food stamps are used by Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program participants to purchase up to $2.1 billion a year in sugar-sweetened beverages. That can’t be good for America, can it?
There are other critics who have attacked fruit and vegetable programs and nutrition education.
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., published what he called “Wastebook” (http://1.usa.gov/QqpGR7) in October, a 202-page compilation of programs he considers wasteful.
Coburn questions a fruit- and vegetable-linked program sponsored by the Department of Health and Human Services that spent $97,000 on the “MyPlate Fruits and Veggies Video Challenge,” a contest for schools to create 30-second videos to support healthy eating.
“As adorable or fun as some of the videos may be, such words are falling on ears that have heard messages about fruits and veggies for years,” he writes.
Among the handful of industry-related projects he skewers in “Wastebook,” he also attacks the Healthy Food Financing Initiative — a multimillion-dollar program intended to expand access to healthy foods and fresh produce in some low-income communities.
It is hard to know how much the world will change in the next few months. If Mitt Romney wins the presidency, there will be less funding for industry-supported initiatives in the farm bill, including food stamps, specialty crop block grants and other programs.
On his website, Romney’s campaign says, “As president, Mitt Romney will ask a simple question about every federal program: Is it so important, so critical, that it is worth borrowing money from China to pay for it?”
Now that you put it that way, there are not many programs that pass muster. Austerity and bare-bone spending is not an answer by itself.
But it may be an unavoidable reality given our country’s crushing debt. Americans who want change hope Romney can create a new era of prosperity by delivering policies that allow Americans to build their businesses.
It may be time to let Mitt run the lemonade stand.
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