Do as Simon says: Food stamp data should be open for review

06/14/2012 01:59:00 PM
Tom Karst

National Editor Tom KarstThere is a good argument for making a "healthy-living" grocery list for food stamp recipients. Why should people on food stamps buy products with a NuVal rating of 1 (ahem, Little Debbie swiss rolls) when they could be buying fresh oranges, NuVal rating of 100? 

The idea of putting tighter controls on food stamp purchases has been around for a while, but it has been successfully resisted by corporate food interests and anti-hunger advocates.

A first step to reform would simply be knowledge of what food people purchase now with taxpayer-funded food stamp benefits.

Michele Simon, president of Eat Drink Politics of San Francisco, has issued this 28-page report called "Food Stamps, Follow the Money: Are Corporations Profiting from Hungry Americans?" The report has drawn coverage from The Huffington Post, Reuters, and The Atlantic.

From a June 12 press release about the report:

Are food stamps lining the pockets of the nation’s wealthiest corporations instead of closing the hunger gap in the United States? Why does Walmart benefit from more than $200 million in annual food stamp purchases in Oklahoma alone? Why does one bank, J.P. Morgan Chase, hold exclusive contracts in 24 states to administer public benefits?

Right now, Congress is debating the farm bill, including significant cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (or SNAP, formerly known as food stamps). Much attention has focused on how agricultural subsidies fuel our cheap, unhealthy food supply. In reality, the largest and most overlooked taxpayer subsidy to the food industry is SNAP, which comprised two-thirds of the farm bill budget in 2008.

Food Stamps, Follow the Money examines what we know and don’t know about how much the food industry and large banks benefit from a tax-payer program that has grown to $78 billion in 2011, up from $30 billion just four years earlier, and projected to increase further due to current economic conditions.


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Greg Johnson    
Lenexa, Kan.  |  June, 18, 2012 at 02:58 PM

Simon should read Pamela R's column this week that shows American consumers purchase fresh produce at grocery stores far more often than farmers markets. http://www.thepacker.com/opinion/fresh-produce-opinion/Supermarket-sales-still-best-farmers-markets-159102365.html

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