In one, government-dependent Americans take to Youtube to sing about everything they can buy with their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, i.e., food stamps. Such hits include " Swipe My EBT " and " It's Free Swipe Yo EBT ." According to the U.S. Food and Nutrition Service, much of the outrageous behavior depicted in the videos is legal. The Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 defines “eligible food” to include soft drinks, candy, cookies, snack crackers, ice cream, seafood, steak, bakery cakes and certain energy drinks.
In the other, First Lady Michelle Obama appears with the head of Disney to announce that the iconic brand’s media outlets will only advertise food that “align[s] with federal standards to promote fruit and vegetables and limit calories, sugar, sodium, and saturated fat.” As part of her “Let’s Move” campaign, more than 1,500 schools have adopted healthier menus (the chocolate milk controversy!), McDonalds now gives kids apple slices and there is a garden on the South Lawn.
Instead of focusing her considerable skills on bullying…err…persuading private sector companies to adopt strict nutrition standards, perhaps Mrs. Obama should take aim at taxpayer-subsidized ice cream, potato chips and soda.
The concept of restricting the use of food stamps is not new. In 1964, when President Johnson asked Congress to establish the first permanent food stamp program, the House wanted to prohibit the purchase of soft drinks, luxury foods and luxury frozen foods. Unfortunately, the bill signed by President Johnson considered all items intended for human consumption (except for alcohol and imported foods)eligible.
Times have changed though, and the First Lady has blazed new ground with her multipronged campaign. In 2010, when her husband signed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act into law, she said, “school meals” feed “more than 31 million children a day” and “childhood obesity isn’t just a public health issue…it is not just an economic threat -- it is a national security threat as well.”
With 46 million Americans now on food stamps, surely Mrs. Obama can recognize the compelling “public health,” “economic” and “national security” interests in reforming SNAP. Since 2008, spending on the government’s largest food assistance program has doubled to nearly $80 billion a year, half of which goes to individuals who have been dependent for 8.5 years or more.
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