USDA says 23% of food stamps spent on soda, candy, snacks

It turns out that many Americans are wasting chunks of their food stamps on, quite frankly, crap, says a new United States government report.

According to a study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Americans who use food stamps purchase approximately $1.3 billion worth of soda, desserts, candy, sugar and salty snacks. Researchers found that $600 million is spent on soda and another $700 million on junk food and sugar snacks.

The food stamp program, otherwise known as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), costs the taxpayers $74 billion. Of the 45 million Americans who use food stamps, users spent nearly one-quarter (22.8 percent) of their benefits on desserts, candy, sugar, salty snacks and sugary drinks. SNAP users spent just 11.9 percent of their benefits on fruits and vegetables.

Experts likened the results as subsidizing the junk food industry.

“In this sense, SNAP is a multibillion-dollar taxpayer subsidy of the soda industry,” said Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University, in an interview with the New York Times. “It’s pretty shocking.”

The common excuse will be that junk food is cheaper than healthy foods, which is a fallacious argument. A bag of carrots, for instance, can cost the same amount of a bag of potato chips at the local grocery store. A box of Cheerios, as another example, can be cheaper than a box of cookies.

Donald Trump has said that he wants to reform and perhaps even cut an array of welfare programs. Republicans want to ostensibly remove the food stamps program from the overall Farm Bill.

This comes as one Tennessee lawmaker wants to prohibit food stamps for unhealthy foods like ice cream and soda. State Representative Sheila Butt submitted a bill that would prevent SNAP users from buying foods in large amounts of calories, sugar and fat.

Meanwhile, the study was released at a time when the USDA said it would launch a pilot program to permit several online grocery stores to accept food stamps. Amazon, which was one of companies, announced that it would accept food stamps as part of efforts to take on Wal-Mart.

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  1. People who use SNAP benefits make the same food-buying decisions as we all do, and should not be discriminated against because they need temporary help affording their groceries. Second, allowing the government to designate foods as “good” and “bad” is problematic. Such a policy shift would create a food code more complicated and arbitrary than the tax code. It also would put us on a slippery slope of government intrusion into many decisions that have been always left to the individual to decide. What can help? Nutrition education and encouraging the availability of a wide array of food and beverage choices is a good idea not only for SNAP beneficiaries, but also for all Americans.

    With that said, America’s beverage companies are committed to being part of real solutions to public health challenges on a national scale through the Balance Calories Initiative, which aims to reduce sugar and calories consumed from beverages across America. We also support clear and understandable nutrition facts about foods and beverages and have voluntarily placed clear calorie labels on the front of the bottles and cans we produce.

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