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Food Stamp Program Takes Steps to Encourage a Whole Foods Diet

Monday, January 04, 2010 by: Jeremiah Smith, PharmD
Tags: food stamps, nutrition, health news

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(NewsTarget) The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), administered by the USDA, helps low-income individuals and families put food on the table. It is commonly and historically known as the Food Stamp Program. The new name was adopted following enactment of the 2008 Farm Bill, which brought many new changes including expanded coverage and funding to promote nutrition. In an attempt to help improve eating habits and combat the obesity epidemic, SNAP has created incentives for the purchase of nutritious foods. A number of nonprofit groups are participating in this effort to offer such incentives at the point-of-sale.

One of these groups is the Wholesome Wave Foundation, whose mission is to make locally grown, sustainable foods available to all communities. Their "Double Value Coupon Program" doubles the value of food stamps used at participating farmers' markets. This program increases access to affordable, healthy food in low-income areas that need it most. It also supports local farming and reduces "food miles" traveled, which benefits the environment.

Perhaps the most common argument against the use of food assistance programs to promote healthful eating has been that needy people should not have their food choices restricted to certain products. However, this program does not include any restrictions. Its goal is to empower individuals to make healthier choices, not to limit their choices. According to president and CEO of Wholesome Wave, Michel Nischan, "We're not taking away your benefits because you spend them on Twinkies, but if you decide you want to spend it on fresh tomatoes, you'll get double your money."

Currently, close to one in eight Americans are enrolled in SNAP, yet only two-thirds of those eligible for enrollment have applied. The average benefit amount for individuals was $124 per month in 2009. Participants can use these benefits to purchase food items, as well as seeds and plants that produce food. Benefits cannot be used for nonfood items, alcohol, tobacco, pet food or supplements.

Despite commonly held beliefs about the program, figures show that every tax dollar spent on food stamps will generate about $1.80 in economic activity, due to what is known as the "ripple effect." Local spending of food stamp credit is passed on to employees, distributors and producers in the food supply chain, who in turn continue the spending cycle.

Sources:

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
(http://www.fns.usda.gov/FSP/Default.htm)

Wholesome Wave
(http://www.wholesomewave.org/)

"Boost in Food-Stamp Funding Percolates Through Economy" The Wall Street Journal
(http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124691958931...)

"Food miles" Wikipedia
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_miles)

About the author

Jeremiah Smith is a licensed and practicing pharmacist with a strong interest in nutrition and natural medicine. He is driven by a thirst for knowledge and a passion for helping others achieve optimal health. Smith writes articles on a range of topics related to wellness. You can visit his website at (http://www.anewvision.info/)


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