National Editor Tom Karst There 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.
As the largest government-funded agriculture program in the nation, SNAP presents a tremendous opportunity to help tens of millions of Americans be better nourished and to reshape our food system in a positive way. SNAP dollars now represent more than 10 percent of all grocery store purchases.
“Congress should make SNAP more transparent by mandating accurate tracking of SNAP expenditures. Why should only the likes of Walmart, Coca-Cola, and J.P. Morgan know how many billions of our tax dollars are spent each year?” said Ms. Simon.