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Sustainable Food Stamps

Friday, October 8, 2010
Just read an interesting article on the Civil Eats blog.  Yesterday Mayor Bloomberg of New York City requested that the Department of Agriculture add soda to the items prohibited for purchase using food stamps.  Currently prohibited items include alcohol, tobacco, pet products, and several others.

Mayor Bloomberg is aggressively working to reduce obesity and believes this is another avenue that could assist in this cause.  New York City, like most other cities, has seen a significant increase in the rates of obesity.  One of the more concerning statistics raised in the New York Times article indicated that 40% of children in the United States are currently obese. 

Opponents of Mayor Bloomberg say that it further degrades low-income families by suggesting they can't make adequate food choices.  I can't disagree more - why subsidize unhealthy living and then further subsidize by treating diseases caused by this unhealthy living?  Why not use this money instead to further support sustainable and healthy food, like that found at farmers' markets? 

The Civil Eats article indicated that currently $4 billion dollars worth of soda is purchased using food stamps, while only $4 million dollars of food stamps are spent at farmers' markets.  I can't vouch for the validity of those numbers, but I do know that at the vendors at the Omaha farmers' market are cash-only.  Food stamps are no longer paper stamps, but instead are debit cards, which makes shopping at the farmers' market impossible for people using the cards.


I started researching this more and was excited to discover that in April 2010 the Governor of Nebraska signed into law Legislative Bill 986.  If you're really interested, check out this link to view the transcript on the introduction of this bill - almost makes me want to join the state legislature!  According to the bill, its purpose is to "Build the capacity of farming and ranching operations and small rural businesses to benefit from the development of electronic commerce, including the implementation of electronic scanners or point-of-sale devices to expand the ability of Nebraskans to utilized federally subsidized food and nutrition program benefits at farmers markets." 

Thanks to this bill (and the funding that goes with it) hopefully next year low-income families will be able to take advantage of local and nutritious foods.  My hope is that this bill has success and that our government, both at the state and federal levels, will continue to create and implement programs to help subsidize healthy and economical food choices for all people.


Rosalina said...

Select OFM vendors have started accepting SNAP tokens (food stamps) too !! So one doesnt need the EBT scanner to get healthy food to lower income families! This is all good news!


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