Dollar menu MCDONALDS

Should we drop food stamps to curb obesity?

Think Progress

Santorum told the group he would cut the food stamp program, describing it as one of the fastest growing programs in Washington, D.C.

Forty-eight million people are on food stamps in a country with 300-million people, said Santorum.

“If hunger is a problem in America, then why do we have an obesity problem among the people who we say have a hunger program?” Santorum asked.

You have got to be kidding me.

Sir, have you ever been poor? 

Do you know how it is to eat when you have little money for groceries — and have to choose between .99 cent offerings or a $1.50-$5 lb fruit?  (Or, in many situations,  toilet paper?) 

When forced to choose, (prior to having weight loss surgery, anyway…) I chose the cheapest food selections.  Hamburger Helper (Hey, $10 for 10….) instead of fresh veggies.

I can still get more calories + food at McDonald's than at the grocery store – if I were concerned about GETTING ENOUGH calories – and did not cook, or didn't understand much about nutrition – what would I choose?

Dollar menu MCDONALDS

My double cheeseburger is cheaper than an apple.  (Yes, I still eat fast food sometimes.)

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I gained in excess of 100 pounds in a relatively short period of time because I was eating very cheaply.  I had a spouse who worked in quick serve restaurant management and we often had lower cost fast food, and then he moved into retail management (Wal*Mart), and often brought home discount groceries. 

He's never gone without a job, but at times we've been quite broke.  When you have to choose, sometimes it does (or did…) come down to quantity vs. quality of food choices.  I have a family of six, one working parent.  Our groceries, if I don't cut to the basics, can cost a LOT.  We often keep it to the very bare bones.  (Right now, I have two kitchens/we've been living apart since August/but we share food, money, and I often cook food to send to the house, and I run out of things often.  Today I am totally out of milk, juice, poultry… I don't have the ability to just run up to the store and replace things:  either for money or transportation issues.)

I completely believe that income is related to obesity for many people.  When you have little money, what else can you fall back on?  If you cannot afford extras — you might still be able to afford ice cream.  It becomes a hobby for MANY OF US.  If we couldn't afford to go out — we could stay in — and eat.

Maybe I have learned since then, it takes some time and experience to understand frugality and nutrition.  I was a bit forced into my learning since I had gastric bypass surgery, and my husband had it five weeks after me.  Ironically, our economic situation bottomed out around the same time, when we were at our heaviest weights.  (An aside:  He was told he would not be promoted if he didn't "look better" in his job, so… he lost the weight.  It worked.  He's been promoted at least three times since the weight loss.  Yes.  I get it.  It cuts like a knife.)  

The Obesity Action Coalition states – "Individuals affected by obesity are often victims of negative stigma. Obesity stigma is a major issue and is the last socially acceptable form of discrimination in our society." 

We had a crash-course in nutrition and weight loss and maintenance.  This was nearly eight years ago.  We've been at normal weights since then, and haven't touched Little Debbie SINCE.  (She was a big part of the downfall.)

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But what of the entire country? 

Many are still buying $1 options, because they have to or do not understand their options.  Lots of people have grown up in households with little to no nutritional understanding, and need education on the basics that is easily broken down into to-do lists.  And it needs to be everywhere and long term.

Taking away the supplemental nutrition programs isn't going to solve the obesity issue.  You can be fat and malnourished.  It all comes down to affordabilty, availabilty, choice and educating the consumer.  I would suggest that handing a family food stamps with little to no guidance and rules is a poor idea, but if they were given more nutritional guidance on How To Feed Your Family With Real Foods, it could be a start.   You can reach a huge portion of Americans struggling with obesity by reaching out VIA the food stamp program.  Obesity is often economic, environmental and genetic.  You have to reach the whole family.

I have a unique perspective right now, as I am currently living in an apartment and cannot easily reach a grocery store.  I cannot drive, and the closest grocery store is one walk and two buses away.  My only option for groceries, is a local convenience and liquor store and there the actual food options are somewhat limited and overpriced. 

This store accepts Food Stamps, and are a likely huge recipient of the program locally, as I am in a somewhat depressed area of my town.  Recipients in my area are paying too much Food Stamp money for little choice in food, because of the store's limitations.  A participant CAN, in fact, spend the entire monthly allotment on soda if they chose to.  I imagine this issue could be much, much worse in more urban areas with more poverty and smaller convenience stores, I'd bet there are families buying nothing BUT junk food because it's all they can GET TO. 

Instead of talking about cutting off food stamps for the poorest of Americans who struggle with obesity, let's educate.