The weird thing about it, well, there are two things:
- It has nothing to do with nutrition. You can buy anything edible (except alcohol). Soda, candy, chips, any number of convenience foods. You could eat complete crap all month, if you could make your allotment last that long.
- You can't buy hot food. No restaurants, no drive-thrus, no take-out, no cup of hot soup.
How are the poorest of the poor, the non-English speakers, the refugees, those with no cooking skills and no understanding of our culture, supposed to use their food benefits in any healthy manner? Some charities offer support -- classes in food budgeting and cooking with limited resources. But isn't it easier to call cheese & crackers dinner than to figure out the system?
I feel pretty strongly that the SNAP program could use a couple of improvements, while still leaving plenty of room for tastes and preferences of recipients:
- Anything in which 90% or more of the calories come from sugars isn't food and shouldn't be paid for by government assistance.
- Hot food should be allowed, if it's got a minimum of 7 grams of protein per serving and/or includes at least one serving of non-starchy vegetables. Restaurants who want to participate in the SNAP program by providing wholesome food to people in need ought to be allowed to, and people who receive these benefits ought to be able to buy wholesome food whether they have access to kitchen facilities or not.
It makes a whole lot more sense to me to allow poor people to buy some ready-to-eat, hot, Chinese beef & broccoli than to have a soda and a candy bar constitute lunch. That's not nutrition in anybody's book. Or maybe the program needs to be called SECAP -- Supplemental Empty Calories Assistance Program, because poor people don't need to be healthy, they just need to survive.
If my kids figured out how to live without soda when our food budget got tight, anybody can. Oh, but don't take my coffee away. I need my coffee.
SNAP and Sugar-Sweetened Beverages
Sugar, Stress, and SNAP
SNAP Pays $2 Billion a Year on Sugar-Sweetened Beverages