Last Sunday, the New York Times posted a front-page article about SNAP (food stamps) that focused on the fact that recipients purchase soda with their benefits. The overall tone of the article was one of blame, portraying people who rely on the SNAP program in a harsh and negative light.
In reality, whether on SNAP or not, all Americans purchase groceries in the same proportions, as the USDA report shows. Research from the USDA shows that whether a shopper is rich, poor or in-between, roughly 40% of grocery carts are made up of eggs, milk, meat and produce, another 40% is made up of staples like rice, beans and other dairy, and about 20% is spent on junk food and soda.
Being poor may qualify you for SNAP, but it doesn’t automatically give you the right skills to successfully navigate the aisles of your grocery store — skills most Americans need, regardless of income. Through its No Kid Hungry campaign, Share Our Strength works with low-income families including many on SNAP across the country on ways to build the skills to shop, cook, and eat wisely on extremely limited food budgets.
Our experience over the past 25 years shows that education and incentives are powerful ways to help people make healthier grocery choices. But there is simply not enough nutrition education for SNAP participants (or anyone else); less than one half of one percent of the SNAP budget goes to nutrition education services.
At the same time, SNAP benefits are a lifeline for kids in need.
- SNAP benefits make the difference between living in poverty or not for an estimated 2.1 million kids each year.
- Low-income kids who received SNAP benefits were 18% more likely to graduate from high school than low-income kids who didn’t.
- In children, SNAP benefits are also linked to a lower risk of anemia, lower levels of obesity, fewer doctor visits and fewer hospitalizations.
- When kids get SNAP benefits, they are also more likely to have higher IQ, higher test scores and higher adult earnings.
Bottom line: SNAP is critical to the health and futures of our youngest generation. We should not use this data to undercut this critical program and play into harmful stereotypes about the poor.