The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Time to Rethink Food Stamps

3 min read

Staff Writer

It is no surprise that the United States has an obesity problem.  Any Body Mass Index that exceeds 25 is considered overweight, and health dangers rise exponentially with the BMI number.

The rapidly growing number of people whose BMI is over 25 effects not only those individuals personally, but the healthcare costs of an individual whose BMI exceeds 25 are $1000 more per year on average for insurance providers according to

Meanwhile, the nationwide United States Nutrition Assistance Program, aka “food stamps,” is providing the nail in the coffin for many of these individuals.

The good intentions of various food stamp programs fall short of their goals.  There is absolutely no question that individuals in a democracy can hit on hard times.  This program started in the late 1930s and has evolved significantly throughout the years.

In the Commonwealth of Virginia, the recipients get a lump sum on a card on the first of each month.  They are allotted a certain amount based on the size of their family, their income and several other contributing factors.

However, most of these individuals opt for unhealthy, processed foods that are not only a poor use of tax payer’s dollars, but they build an unhealthy habit in themselves that will condeficit.

With the addition of the Health care bill, this issue becomes more important than ever.  The nation is currently assisting people to become obese on the tax payers dime, and the thousands more in health coverage would also become the responsibility of tax payers when, and if, the health care bill comes through the Supreme Court.

I propose that it is not only in the nation’s best interest, but also the nation’s responsibility to educate food stamp recipients about nutrition.  As a prerequisite to receiving food stamp benefits, the individuals should have to complete a short nutrition education course.

I would like to go a step further to say that the government should change the way the benefits are received from a lump sum to specified recipient items.  These items would be chosen and calculated by panel of government paid nutritionists to give the individuals what is needed for a healthy diet.

We already have a program that works similarly to this: the Women Infants and Children program.  In this program, they are given a set amount of necessities such as milk, diapers and formula.

I simply propose that we work food stamps the same way.  Each family would get a sum from which they may purchase their choice of protein, a certain amount of whole grain starch, and allotments for fresh fruits and vegetables.

As it currently is, these individuals can get sushi, prime rib, lobster, cake, soda and ice cream.  I am not saying that the recipients should never get those items but instead put a small amount aside that is the “discretionary fund.”   This would instill a reminder that although they are receiving this food free of cost, it is not free.  We, the taxpayers, pay for it each week out of our paychecks.

Because the money is coming from the government, the recipients should be held responsible for how it is spent.

These much needed changes to the food stamp program would help decrease obesity in food stamp recipients.  In addition, those that want to have more freedom to purchase whatever they please are motivated to fund their own grocery bill.

These changes would not only help the country’s current financial woes but also the recipients themselves.  After all, America is about giving a hand up, not a hand out.