In the Op-ed published in The Wall Street Journal, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is saying that he will soon introduce a measure to remove benefits for junk food (and most likely also fast food) from the federal Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP = food stamps). His proposed bill would exclude soda and prepared desserts from SNAP.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is a lifeline for tens of millions of low-income Americans who rely on it for food. But like most government programs, SNAP is in dire need of reform. Though SNAP is meant to supplement nutrition, more than 20% of all program spending goes to unhealthy food and drink.
Taxpayers will spend over the next decade well over $240 billion on junk food, with more than $60 billion going exclusively to soda, despite the health consequences for those relying on the program. More than 40 percent of U.S. adults are obese, and roughly half have diabetes or prediabetes. Rubio wrote, “That SNAP plays a role in their spread is immoral, irresponsible and reprehensible.”
Of course in our opinion, these numbers are misleading, as carb loaded cereals, refined carb products such as pasta and bread, canned foods lacking nutrition, margarine and seed oils —and the list goes on and on— are considered "healthy foods."
At this point, this is merely an op-ed piece. Whether anything will come of it in short term is a moot point. It is surely a sign that the sentiments regarding junk food and fast food are shifting dramatically in both political parties. By now it is clear beyond a doubt in broad swaths of society that widespread malnutrition among the American population, including obesity and with mental illness are directly and provably connected to huge consumption of junk and fast food.
In the coming years we will see an ever stronger bipartisan campaign to create obstacles to purchasing such foods, such as increased taxes on junk food products and a ban on advertising on TV, among countless other measures — similar to the anti-cigarettes campaign.
Since we now know that junk food is harmful, and that it is all natural to expect increased efforts to penalize and limit the purchase of junk food. Sen. Marco Rubio’s call is only the start, yet his proposal about food stamps will very likely be enacted in some form — if not this year, then in the following years.
We are likely to see further measures in the near future. Eventually, it will benefit not only the produce growers but the health of Americans overall.