Food stamp reform would have huge effect

04/26/2013 09:57:00 AM
Tom Karst

The USDA also is interested in reducing food deserts for low-income households, Concannon said.

“We continue our work that will help make the healthy choice the easier choice across the country,” he said in the press conference.

He noted USDA is testing the concept of providing participant incentives for healthy food purchases.

In a follow-up, I asked Concannon about how the results from those incentive-based pilots promote fruit and vegetable consumption in the food stamp program.

He said the USDA will release the results of its Healthy Incentive Pilot in May. That pilot was conducted over a one-year period in western Massachusetts.

He declined to provide details from the pilot, but hinted the agency may be looking at the pilot for methods USDA could use to motivate participants to eat more healthfully.

Not related to the pilot, another approach might be to beef up requirements to stock more healthy food at the 250,000 retailers who redeem SNAP benefits. About 80% of stores who redeem food stamp benefits are well-provisioned grocery stores or big box stores, but 20% are smaller retailers, he said.

“USDA is very interested in strengthening the range of healthy foods in smaller stores,” he said.

Unfortunately, in my view, Concannon said he would hesitate to support restrictions of unhealthy food purchases by SNAP participants.

That’s a mistake. If the government is looking for serious results and increased consumption of orange and dark green vegetables, the approach should be two-pronged.

Yes, give 23 million households in the SNAP program incentives or “bonus bucks” to purchase fresh produce and other healthy food.

At the same time, the USDA should test the results of limiting purchases of junk food with food stamp benefits. SNAP participants can always purchase sugary drinks with other funds, if so motivated.

For those needing the SNAP program, restrictions on junk food seems a small sacrifice for a generous public benefit. For Congress and the agency that runs the program, the two-pronged approach of creating incentives for healthy food and restricting empty calories makes sense for America.

tkarst@thepacker.com

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Farmer    
Texas  |  April, 26, 2013 at 05:08 PM

I believe Snap should be for healthy foods only & not sugary foods/drinks, candies or chips, etc, full of high calories & fats. The SNAP foods should be nutritious foods providing a healthy diet for those receiving the benefits. In addition, those receiving the benefits should not be able to receive cash back from their cards and in essence get 'cash back' from the program! In addition, restaurants should never be included in the program! Restaurants are a luxury item; not a necessity. School lunches should all be revamped to include fresh and not processed foods. Of school lunches used 'cooked' foods instead of process foods, kids would be eating more of their lunches and the rates of obesity would decrease immensely!!!

    
April, 29, 2013 at 04:58 PM

The program is rampant with fraud people Using program to purchase cigarettes, lottery And alcohol.

Dude    
Georgia  |  May, 01, 2013 at 07:45 AM

Any Program whether Government run or otherwise has some degree of fraud. As long as there are unscrupulous peoples looking for ways to get something for nothing fraud, corruption, and theft will always be going on.... Sad to say but there are a lot of not so good folks out there.... But the vendor is the crooked one if they allow purchases of cigarettes, lottery, and alcohol with a food stamp card.... What gets me is the fact they (food stamp recipients ) can purchase produce wholesale with card and go sell what they have bought down the street for cash monies.... And many people are doing just that.... Thanks Mr Obama....

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