2009 August 10 Monday
Food Stamp Subsidies Making Americans Fat

Government subsidies for poor folks to buy food are making them fat.

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The U.S. Food Stamp Program may help contribute to obesity among its users, according to a new nationwide study that followed participants for 14 years.

Researchers found that the average user of food stamps had a Body Mass Index (BMI) 1.15 points higher than non-users.  The link between food stamps and higher weight was almost entirely based on women users, who averaged 1.24 points higher BMI than those not in the program, the study found.  For an average American woman, this would mean an increase in weight of 5.8 pounds.

Modest proposal: Make eligibility for the food stamps weight-tested.

The welfare state is making people fatty and unhealthy.

The study also found that people’s BMI increased faster when they were on food stamps than when they were not, and increased more the longer they were in the program.

Former Democratic Party Presidential candidate George McGovern, a big welfare state supporter, might have contributed to the obesity epidemic in another way. See Dennis Mangan's post for the details: The Government's War Against Dietary Fat Caused the Obesity Epidemic. The goverrnment's encouragement of higher carbo consumption and lower fat consumption might be to blame. So then is Gary Taubes right in his book Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health?

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2009 August 10 11:33 PM  Economics Health

OneSTDV said at August 11, 2009 8:48 AM:

Welfare = dumb people = when dumb people have money, they make bad decisions

averros said at August 13, 2009 2:02 AM:

> when dumb people have money, they make bad decisions

They proliferate.

Engineer-Poet said at August 13, 2009 10:31 AM:

You forgot the unhealthy, but profitable, incentives created by farm-industry lobbyists.  Poor people had subsidized starches chosen for them ahead of fresh produce.  Poor people had HFCS pushed ahead of sugar, and both promoted by advertising over tea, coffee and water.

I have to wonder if these dietary disasters have a dysphenic effect upon intelligence also.

patrikios said at August 14, 2009 8:41 PM:

What Engineer-Poet said. Uncle Sam subsidizes those bad decisions because industrial corn and meat producers have lobbied for their products to be subsidized ahead of healthier choices (fresh produce). Haven't seen the studies but I suspect that high-fat, high-starch processed foods are harmful to intelligence, at least when eaten in childhood.

kristy k. said at August 17, 2009 2:30 PM:

I am a food stamp recipient who has a bachelor's degree from a big ten college and has been struggling to survive since graduation (which happened right when the economy dumped). I am not dumb, but thanks for your ignorance in stereotyping people.
Solution? Restrict what types of foods you can buy with food stamps. I buy fresh produce and high quality lean meats. This is the way that I eat. I could buy all the soda chips candies cookies and frozen crap that I want to. I choose not to. WIC restricts what type of milk mothers can buy, so why not have food stamps restrict certain foods? It isn't violating any freedoms when it is a conditional program.

Engineer-Poet said at August 17, 2009 8:42 PM:

Kristy, I'm sorry about your unfortunate timing (I graduated into a recession too) but I congratulate you on your intelligence and resourcefulness.  However, do you think that your example generalizes well to the entire population of food-stamp recipients... especially the ones living in areas with no supermarkets and few options for fresh produce?

kristy k. said at August 18, 2009 7:40 AM:

I have heard this before, that there is no fresh produce in poor areas. The recent story I heard was in Los Angeles, it is sad and there are groups working to bring farmer's markets to these areas, however, the last time i was in LA, you couldn't walk with out tripping over a produce truck. And no, I wasn't always in nice areas, that was the least likely place to see them. The produce trucks also sold junk food, and while I waited in line, might I add that most people bought bags of processed foods while I purchased avocadoes, tomatoes, onions and lime for guacamole? It cost $2 for a big bag of fresh food. the chips were $1 a bag.
The big problem is public education. I work in an inner city high school with mostly African American female students, I recently read that their demographics are over 51% overweight or obese compared to 32% for the African American male counterparts. I also see the junk they stuff in their mouth all day long, and the amount of fast foods they consume, they are "poor" but spend far more money (out of pocket, food stamps don't work at mcdonalds) than I do. Probably double what I do, for my average student. Is it an economic problem? Obviously not, because so many people are overweight (33%) and obese (another 33%). I am in the minority of healthy people who have the knowledge of balanced diet and exercise, though studies generally show food choices are the number one indicator of a healthy body fat percentage.
Where are the public service announcements? And why does the government recommend eating dairy? It is terrible for humans, as is beef just from the way the body digests (or rather, doesn't digest )it. Thats not even touching on the ractomapine deadly carcinogenic drug that they give to cows and pig to make them fatter up until the time they go for slaughter.
Our government and the FDA do not care about our health!
It is quite obvious that lobbyists and big business such as the dairy farmers, cow farmers, drug companies and whoever else can manipulate money out of the public, no matter what the cost, they don't care about you.

Engineer-Poet said at August 23, 2009 12:50 PM:

Kristy, how many of those produce trucks took food stamps?

kristy k. said at August 24, 2009 6:27 AM:

none, but somehow the same people had money for the chips and other products. In MI you can request some kind of actual stamp in addition to your debit card, these stamps are for use at farmer's markets. It is probably a state run program, something about healthy kids

Engineer-Poet said at August 24, 2009 12:17 PM:

I think you're not seeing the addictive nature of the foods crafted around fat, sugar and salt.  Once hooked on them, it might be very hard for those people to go back to something healthy—doubly so if none of the stores which take food stamps sell it, triply so if you don't have the future time orientation to care about what the junk food does to you.

I'm happy about the summer produce.  Right now I'm eating a salad where the lettuce came from a farm stand down the road, the tomatoes and green onions came from the farmer's market in town, and only the mushrooms came from Meijer.  This polishes off the last of it, so tomorrow I'll be shopping again.

R7 said at November 4, 2009 6:33 PM:

Kristy K. said:

I am a food stamp recipient who has a bachelor's degree from a big ten college and has been struggling to survive since graduation (which happened right when the economy dumped). I am not dumb, but thanks for your ignorance in stereotyping people.

What's your degree in?

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