Health & Spirit

When food stamps pass as tickets to better health

Courtney Perkes, Kaiser Health News on

Published in Health & Fitness

Some advocates for healthful diets have argued that government should not only encourage people to buy healthier food but also discourage unhealthful habits.

A 2014 Health Affairs study by Stanford University researchers showed that banning the purchase of soda with food stamps would reduce rates of obesity and diabetes, while a credit of 30 cents on the dollar for buying fresh produce alone would not.

In 2017, more than a dozen researchers from different universities urged SNAP to eliminate diet-related health disparities among programs for low-income people. They noted, for example, that the federal food-assistance program known as Women, Infants and Children, or WIC, excluded soda and candy but that people could still buy those products with food stamps.

"There are generations of unhealthy people who are overweight with diabetes and hypertension," said Jim Floros, president and CEO of the San Diego Food Bank, which has advertised the Mas Fresco program to its clients. "That's completely linked back to a poor diet, which is linked back to poverty."

Rebeca Gonzalez, who moved to the U.S. at age 18, decided to overhaul her family's eating habits after her husband, Javier Landeros, was diagnosed with diabetes two years ago. Instead of buying cookies, she now keeps chopped fruits and veggies in the fridge for snacks.

She said she wants to instill the same healthy habits her grandmother passed on to her.

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"I know she gave us good food," Gonzalez said, "because she lived 105 years."

(Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a national health policy news service. It is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. This story was produced by Kaiser Health News, which publishes California Healthline, a service of the California Health Care Foundation.)

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