(NaturalNews) A new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture reveals that about one in seven Americans receives food stamps. Although the percentage of food stamp users seems to have increased in February of this year, 14.3 percent of the population still needs assistance in order to put dinner on the table. While a recovering economy might be the reason for this increase, the USDA's research does not take into account seasonal changes that might affect the rise or fall of food stamp user statistics.
Not only does this astonishing report point to increased reliance on state and federal assistance, but it also confirms that problems surrounding the nutritional content and availability of healthy foods for food stamp recipients remain unsolved. For many struggling individuals and families, healthy food options are the most expensive options. Buying a variety of vegetables in order to make a casserole, for example, costs considerably more than frozen lasagna. Families are forced to buy processed, packaged foods in order to stretch a dollar. Additionally, the program does not cover nutritional supplements that are necessary for children - and adults - who aren't getting daily recommended values of nutrients and vitamins from the unhealthy foods they must subsist on.
A 2009 study in the Economics and Human Biology journal also revealed a discouraging link between obesity and food stamps. Researchers who followed food stamp users for 14 years found that the average food stamp user had a Body Mass Index (BMI) that averaged about 1.15 points higher than those who were not on food stamps. Even more concerning was that participants' BMIs increased more quickly while on food stamps and continued to rise the longer they stayed in the program.
Considering government statistics that show most food stamp users receive about $100 a month for groceries, it's not difficult to understand why people in the program are faced with two options: buy healthy foods or starve.
In New York City, mayor Michael Bloomberg wants to fight the obesity and diabetes epidemics by banning food stamp users from buying soft drinks or other "sugar-sweetened beverages." According to Bloomberg, "This initiative will give New York families more money to spend on foods and drinks that provide real nourishment." While his intentions are clearly good, Bloomberg's plan of banning unhealthy foods doesn't solve the underlying issue at hand: food stamp users are caught in a system that make it impossible for them to stay healthy.
Until the food industry scale is tipped in favor of fresh, locally-grown, unpackaged and unprocessed foods, the cheaper options will always be the unhealthiest options - they are most cost effective to make and produce. With one in seven Americans now requiring support just to eat, however, it's clear that fewer and fewer individuals have the option to be picky when it comes to their food choices. It's time to stand up for the consumer's right to eat healthy - regardless of income.