Once again, California’s ruling class together with the Biden administration is spending more of our hard-earned tax dollars on a broken program.
While the Federal government does not give food stamps or SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits to non-citizens, California does. Just this year, Democrats in the state legislature proposed that the existing state-funded food stamp program that already serves 35,000 undocumented immigrants, be opened up to all income-eligible Californians irrespective of citizenship. Advocates like state Sen. Melissa Hurtado (D-Sanger), co-author of the bill, say “the state has a responsibility to help feed them, especially since hundreds of thousands of undocumented farm-workers toil in California’s fields, feeding the state and the rest of the country”. With more than 2 million undocumented people in California, this expansion has a price tag of $550 million per year. Together with a federal decision to open the southern border this financial burden for the taxpayers of California will grow exponentially.
Additionally, California is “fast tracking” the food stamp application process and relaxing several program requirements for college students, since the standard process is apparently too stringent and overwhelming for someone who otherwise managed to take an SAT and gain college admission. Now not only will California tax payers be required to pay the college debt of the students who may or may not have attended class, let alone graduated, now we get to pay to feed them while they incur that debt.
The Biden administration has approved the single largest increase to food stamp benefits which are now 25% above pre-pandemic levels. A family of four has gone from $484 to $628 per month. This same family may also simultaneously qualify for WIC (a nutrition program for pregnant women, infants and young children), Pandemic-EBT (a nutritional program meant to replace free or subsidized meals for school-age children now learning online) and the school meals programs. Benefits from all these government feeding programs have been expanded due to COVID-19.
Although a food stamp recipient CANNOT use food stamps to purchase alcohol, cigarettes, toiletries, cleaning products or pet food, any food item is fair game. Anything from licorice to lobster can be purchased with food stamps, with by far the single most purchased-with-food stamps food item being soda. Based on volumes purchased, other foods with particular appeal for food stamp users are chips, cookies, snack foods, convenience foods and processed meats. Low on their list of favorites are fruits, vegetables, and lean protein sources. Studies show an overall poorer diet quality for those who use food stamps compared with those who do not, even after having corrected data for income.
Government nutrition programs are feeding people who are obese in as much as 40+% of the cases. A growing number of these individuals are kids. While starvation is uncommon in the US, unhealthy weight gain is often among the negative consequences of economic insecurity. While government nutrition programs can in some cases help address food insecurity (calories) they are failing to support nutritious food consumption (quality).
Although unhealthy foods are cheap, this does not necessarily explain why they would be selected when by some standards, the food stamp recipient is receiving sufficient funds to afford healthy foods.
Consuming unhealthy foods changes the gut (gastro-intestinal) bacteria which can increase cravings for high sugar, high fat foods that are biologically addictive. It is this macronutrient ratio: high fat, high carb and low protein that makes foods like donuts and fries taste good. The human race would have died out ages ago if we had not found it pleasurable (addictive) to eat those foods that help us easily store fat for the “lean times” since throughout history a readily availability food supply has not always been the case. Living off fat stores meant survival. We are “wired” to seek foods that help store fat as these foods boost the release of Dopamine which is a neurotransmitter which makes us feel good. “Comfort foods” are full of fats and carbs resulting in the release of the most Dopamine. To help contribute to the macronutrient ratio, there are flavor enhancers such as Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) which explains why Cheetos and Doritos are the most popular brands of snack chips in the world!
A diet of healthy foods has the inverse affect on the gut by improving gut bacteria that in turn can reduce unhealthy cravings. But a pattern of unhealthy eating is not so easily changed. By the time a child reaches school age, much diet modeling has taken place. If only healthy food options are available, healthy diet change is achievable. But, if one can choose healthy or unhealthy, established food patterns will likely prevail. It is unhealthy food choices that contribute to not only obesity but other chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
Throughout the years, attempts have been made to modify the food stamp program to keep recipients from begin able to purchase unhealthy foods, but to no avail. In 1981, SNAP-Ed (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education), was established as an optional nutrition education program targeting persons at or below 185% of the federal poverty level who may or may not be enrolled in food stamps. California has participated in SNAP-Ed since its inception. In 1985, California’s obesity rate among adults was below 10%. Today it is between 30 and 35%. In 2022, California’s SNAP-Ed, titled the Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Program (NEOPP) will receive $109,928,200 of your tax dollars to administer this nutrition education program that for over the past 40 years has had apparently no impact on obesity prevention.
Even at this juncture with COVID-19 having ignited the childhood obesity crisis–nearly one in four children–our government chooses to fuel the problem with more misguided, throw-more-money-at-it expansions to food stamps and all government feeding programs that appear to have done more harm than good.
In response to the state imposed economic downturn with widespread unemployment and business closures, many Californians have grown to rely on the state to provide unemployment benefits that in many cases exceeds what they were earning previously. Some are also exempt from evictions if they cannot or chose not to pay their rent, and if they had a student loan, those payments are suspended or forgiven. With these recent changes to government nutrition programs now even more Californians will rely on the government for their very “sustenance”. Like the government hand-outs that discourage the seeking of gainful employment and other responsible choices, food stamps create a dependency that perpetuates systemic unhealthiness.