Monday, March 18, 2013

Food Assistance

Tom Colicchio of "Top Chef" fame talked to Bill Maher this weekend about hunger in America.  He mentioned how 50 million people are in need of food assistance.  While high-end gourmet food is his specialty, his documentary, "A Place At The Table," addresses the call for resources to be spent more wisely, especially on farm subsidies. 

I captured an interesting part of the interview where Colicchio mentioned that subsidies for healthy foods fall way behind subsidies for corn, or dairy.  (the video does not have any audio for some reason)  "Calories are cheap; healthy food is expensive," he said.  What also caught my attention was the link he made between obesity and hunger.  It's natural for people to be both hungry and obese because all the food they're consuming is made up of empty calories, he explained. 

I'm all for people eating healthier foods, but people on food assistance don't have much of a choice when their benefits only afford them the cheapest, and unhealthiest of foods.

Almost two years ago I talked about Richard Raymond's crusade of banning people on SNAP benefits from buying snack foods.  My take on it was that his efforts were misguided because he basically wanted to tackle the obesity problem by penalizing the poor, as if poor people were the only ones eating chips and candies.  Well, he's at it again.  On the surface, the plan may seem practical, but he makes no mention of the disparity in food subsidies that could possibly make healthier foods more affordable.  In Texas, cotton crops gets more monetary love than food.

Raymond misses the mark on this issue because he doesn't really take into account the real cost of nutrition.  And his tone has a hint of derision when he mentions that public funds go towards buying unhealthy food, plus medical assistance to address obesity-related ailments.  But again, what choice do people have?  If oranges sell five for a dollar, and a frozen pizza goes for the same, what are people going to pick?

Healthy food is expensive.  To deny people junk foods is only getting at a small piece of the puzzle.
I think the documentary is worth watching because it might dispel some of the myths we have about people on food stamps.

Here are some SNAP facts.  (The average household receives $289 in benefits)

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