A front page headline in the Jan. 14 Idaho Statesman caught my attention, and after reading it (twice) I am compelled to speak up.
I am not a statistician, economist, social worker, nutritionist or grocer. Nor am I any longer trying to feed a growing family, nor am I recipient of any public assistance. Cutting to the chase, the article reported on a study by the USDA on buying habits of SNAP/Food Stamp recipients that revealed a disproportionate amount of purchases for sugary/soft drinks, junk food, snacks and desserts (and less fresh fruits and vegetables) when compared to shoppers not using such payment methods. Here’s where I hit the wall on this report.
As the person who does the vast majority of grocery shopping for my household, I understand making choices when I shop. But seriously, a bag of potato chips or M&M’s or a cake mix is a lot cheaper, and goes a lot further, than a bag of apples or oranges. Many soft drinks, Kool-Aid or Crystal Light cost less, and go a lot further, than V-8 or orange juice. And when individual Butterfingers are four for $1, but one carton of yogurt is $1.25, or a pomegranate is $2, it’s pretty obvious what will be chosen when money is scarce and a family must be fed. Add to this that growing families often also need to purchase items not covered by these programs, like diapers and feminine hygiene products. You make what choices you can to make limited resources go further.
The article did not imply that only the public assistance recipients bought “unhealthy” items. It stated that the USDA report indicated that “all Americans bought ample amounts of desserts, salty snacks, candy and other junk food. But the SNAP households spent slightly less money on nutritious foods, including fruits and vegetables.”
I am not surprised this is the case. I don’t know what the answer or solution is, but I think the prices are the biggest culprits here, not the recipients per se. Maybe the USDA could study grocery pricing next.
Barbara Sleeper is a registered nurse and has lived in Boise since 1980.