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View Full Version : The (Big) Business of Food Stamps: “Here’s Where the Profits Come in”



Dolphins9954
06-16-2012, 10:08 PM
In 2011, a record 46 million people - or 1 in 7 Americans -- participated in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), better known as Food Stamps.

The increased use of Food Stamps is a huge social and political issue for America, and it's also big business. In 2011, the U.S. government spent $72 billion on Food Stamps.

Among the beneficiaries, food producers such as Cargill, PepsiCo. (PEP (http://finance.yahoo.com/q?s=PEP&ql=1)), Coca-Cola (KO (http://finance.yahoo.com/q?s=KO&ql=1)) and Kraft (KFT (http://finance.yahoo.com/q?s=KFT)), as well as retailers like Wal-Mart. Of course, Wall Street gets a cut too, led by JPMorgan Chase (JPM (http://finance.yahoo.com/q?s=JPM&ql=1)), which administers the SNAP benefits in 24 states.

In the accompanying video, I discuss the (big) business of Food Stamps with Marion Nestle (http://www.foodpolitics.com/), professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University and author of several books, most recently Why Calories Count (http://www.amazon.com/Why-Calories-Count-Politics-California/dp/0520262883/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1321471495&sr=1-1).

Generally speaking, Nestle is a supporter of the program, calling it "the only safety net we have left for the poor."

However, with obesity rates rising among the poor -- and obesity a huge factor in rising health-care costs -- Nestle and other health experts wonder whether there should be restrictions on what kind of foods can be purchased with Food Stamps.

Currently, there are few restrictions on what can be purchased with Food Stamps, other than alcohol and prepared foods.

Here's Where the Profits Come In

"Here's where the profits come in," Nestle says. "A vast percentage of Food Stamps' money goes into the pockets of soda companies and snack food companies...and also the stores that sell these foods."

Wal-Mart "gets a large fraction of Food Stamp dollars," which contributes 25% to 40% of revenue at select stores, according to Nestle. "These companies, therefore, have a vested interest in making sure Food Stamps are allowed for any purchase at all."

Funding for Food Stamps comes from the Farm Bill, which is currently being debated in Congress. "You can bet the food companies like it just the way it is and they are lobbying" to prevent restrictions on how Food Stamp dollars are spent, Nestle says.

Citing a recent report by public health lawyer Michele Simon at EatDrinkPolitics.com (http://www.eatdrinkpolitics.com/), Nestle recently made the following observations on her blog about "some of the politics behind efforts to maintain the status quo":

Food industry groups such as the American Beverage Association and the Snack Food Association teamed up with anti-hunger groups to oppose health-oriented improvements to SNAP.

Companies such as Cargill, PepsiCo, and Kroger lobbied Congress on SNAP, while also donating money to America's top anti-hunger organizations (who fear any changes to the Food Stamps program will result in benefit cuts).

At least 9 states have proposed bills to make health-oriented improvements to SNAP, but none have passed, in part due to opposition from the food industry.

Coca-Cola, the Corn Refiners of America, and Kraft Foods all lobbied against a Florida bill that aimed to disallow SNAP purchases for soda and junk food.

Banks and other private contractors are reaping significant windfalls from the economic downturn and increasing SNAP participation.

"The point here is that banks that administer SNAP have a vested interest in keeping SNAP enrollments high and makers of junk foods have a vested interest in making sure that there are no restrictions on use of benefits," she writes.

As you'll see in the accompanying video, one other thing stands out when discussing these issues: There is no public data available on how Food Stamp funds are being spent.

"If there are data on what Food Stamps are spent on, they are proprietary data the companies have and either the government doesn't know, doesn't have access or isn't saying," Nestle observes.

Whatever you think of the program or whether there should restrictions on Food Stamps, we have a right to know how (and where) these taxpayer funds are being spent.



http://finance.yahoo.com/blogs/daily-ticker/marion-nestle-big-business-food-stamps-where-profits-164228337.html

MadDog 88
06-18-2012, 02:31 PM
There is no reason that you can't regulate what food stamps are used for. It works quite well with the WIC program.

Dolphins9954
06-18-2012, 07:36 PM
There is no reason that you can't regulate what food stamps are used for. It works quite well with the WIC program.

I agree. Food stamps is the one thing I give a pass on when it comes to government. The libertarian in me wants to say otherwise but I would rather help people that REALLY need it with food. But that food should be regulated to healthy and necessary items. Paying for people's sodas and junk food I'm totally against.

LANGER72
06-18-2012, 09:02 PM
I agree that the poor should get help with food stamps. We have bigger fish to fry than that program.

Locke
06-18-2012, 09:06 PM
I agree. Food stamps is the one thing I give a pass on when it comes to government. The libertarian in me wants to say otherwise but I would rather help people that REALLY need it with food. But that food should be regulated to healthy and necessary items. Paying for people's sodas and junk food I'm totally against.

You'd also have to regulate those shady businesses that trade the food stamp money for straight cash. I don't think it's a system that can be properly monitored to be honest. What we have now is probably as good as it's ever going to get, minus some various tweaks here and there. This is fine by me. Yes, there are the douchebags abusing it, but for everyone one of them there are 50 people using the program the way it was intended. Those odds are far too stacked to mess with the program...

Tetragrammaton
06-18-2012, 09:20 PM
I agree. Food stamps is the one thing I give a pass on when it comes to government. The libertarian in me wants to say otherwise but I would rather help people that REALLY need it with food. But that food should be regulated to healthy and necessary items. Paying for people's sodas and junk food I'm totally against.

Why does it matter to you what kind of food they get? Are you proposing a government mandate?

Dolphins9954
06-18-2012, 09:37 PM
Why does it matter to you what kind of food they get? Are you proposing a government mandate?

I'm proposing that we pay for healthy food for people to eat. If they want junk food then pay for it with your own money.

Dolphins9954
06-18-2012, 09:43 PM
You'd also have to regulate those shady businesses that trade the food stamp money for straight cash. I don't think it's a system that can be properly monitored to be honest. What we have now is probably as good as it's ever going to get, minus some various tweaks here and there. This is fine by me. Yes, there are the douchebags abusing it, but for everyone one of them there are 50 people using the program the way it was intended. Those odds are far too stacked to mess with the program...

It could be properly monitored like WIC is by only paying for good and healthy food for people to eat. Those that do shady business should be dealt with to the fullest extent of the law. Unfortunately food stamps has become a cash cow for the junk food industry and Wal-Mart. It could easily be fixed by only allowing healthy food choices. Think about all those people on food stamps eating sh!t for food and all of us paying for it.

Locke
06-18-2012, 10:10 PM
It could be properly monitored like WIC is by only paying for good and healthy food for people to eat. Those that do shady business should be dealt with to the fullest extent of the law. Unfortunately food stamps has become a cash cow for the junk food industry and Wal-Mart. It could easily be fixed by only allowing healthy food choices. Think about all those people on food stamps eating sh!t for food and all of us paying for it.

The devil's advocate would point out that junk food is not only cheaper, but ridiculously cheaper, than healthy food. Yes, they are putting crap in their bodies, but they are getting 4-5 times more crap with that money than if they were buying fruit, veggies, raw meat, etc. Personally, I'd prefer if everyone ate right and stopped spending money on crap, but with the economy in the tank, most people can only afford the crap, especially those with multiple kids...

Dolphins9954
06-18-2012, 10:35 PM
The devil's advocate would point out that junk food is not only cheaper, but ridiculously cheaper, than healthy food. Yes, they are putting crap in their bodies, but they are getting 4-5 times more crap with that money than if they were buying fruit, veggies, raw meat, etc. Personally, I'd prefer if everyone ate right and stopped spending money on crap, but with the economy in the tank, most people can only afford the crap, especially those with multiple kids...

I have to disagree Locke. I have a family of 4 and we manage to eat everyday with our own money pretty healthy most of the time. We don't eat any red meat in our house and eat mostly chicken and fish with some pork here and there. A lot of fruits and veggies and most of the meat is grilled. The difference is that we eat a lot of whole food that you actually have to cook and prepare and oppose to the junk and processed microwave crap that people are just to lazy to cook. It can be done. I remember my grandmother and my mom never having a microwave and fast food joints but having good meals cooked everyday. Giving people food stamps to buy all the junk food they want is only enabling the obesity and sh!tty food epidimec we have in this country.

cdz12250
06-18-2012, 10:49 PM
You think maybe that people who are on food stamps are gourmand-nutritionist types who are going to make healthy food choices as they prepare haute cuisine at home from wholesome ingredients?

Of course they're using them to buy soda and junk food.

Sheesh.

Locke
06-18-2012, 10:56 PM
You think maybe that people who are on food stamps are gourmand-nutritionist types who are going to make healthy food choices as they prepare haute cuisine at home from wholesome ingredients?

Of course they're using them to buy soda and junk food.

Sheesh.

Don't we all love well-thought out and totally open-minded posts from people with an obvious background in sociology...?

:rolleyes2:

Tetragrammaton
06-18-2012, 10:58 PM
I would think the indignity of being on food stamps would be enough. Now we need people to scold them and tell them what they can and cannot eat.

Locke
06-18-2012, 11:04 PM
I have to disagree Locke. I have a family of 4 and we manage to eat everyday with our own money pretty healthy most of the time. We don't eat any red meat in our house and eat mostly chicken and fish with some pork here and there. A lot of fruits and veggies and most of the meat is grilled. The difference is that we eat a lot of whole food that you actually have to cook and prepare and oppose to the junk and processed microwave crap that people are just to lazy to cook. It can be done. I remember my grandmother and my mom never having a microwave and fast food joints but having good meals cooked everyday. Giving people food stamps to buy all the junk food they want is only enabling the obesity and sh!tty food epidimec we have in this country.

I agree with some of this. A savvy consumer would go to the supermarket and buy one of those 6 packs of chicken breasts for 10-12 bucks, knowing that they will probably provide 2 meals for a family of 3, really making the cost 5-6 bucks per meal. You can find good produce at a farmer's market for pretty cheap. It's all about having the time to go around on shop, which is something not everyone has.

However, some things are just not cost effective. Organic juice and good milk cost anywhere from 3-8 bucks depending on what you are getting. A 2 liter of root beer costs 99 cents. A small can of mixed nuts costs anywhere from 6-10 bucks. A bag of chips costs 99 cents. Anything organic is a good 50% more expensive than it's processed or insecticide-laden counterpart. I think we need some sort of balance with the prices of some of these foods. For that to happen, the price of junk food needs to go up to be comparable to it's healthy counterpart, in my opinion at least...

Dolphins9954
06-19-2012, 08:15 AM
I would think the indignity of being on food stamps would be enough. Now we need people to scold them and tell them what they can and cannot eat.

No scolding. It's simple really....We the taxpayer will only pay for certain foods for you to eat and if you want that case of pepsi and bag of pork rinds then you're on your own. As for indignity....there was a time when people we're ashamed to be on food stamps and lost some of their pride over it. And there is still some like that. But most don't care about that anymore and have no problem with getting it.

Dolphins9954
06-19-2012, 08:19 AM
You think maybe that people who are on food stamps are gourmand-nutritionist types who are going to make healthy food choices as they prepare haute cuisine at home from wholesome ingredients?

Of course they're using them to buy soda and junk food.

Sheesh.

If we the taxpayer didn't buy the junk food for them then they wouldn't eat unless they paid for it. And please there's nothing "gourmet" about putting some chicken breasts or fish on the grill.

Dolphins9954
06-19-2012, 08:22 AM
I agree with some of this. A savvy consumer would go to the supermarket and buy one of those 6 packs of chicken breasts for 10-12 bucks, knowing that they will probably provide 2 meals for a family of 3, really making the cost 5-6 bucks per meal. You can find good produce at a farmer's market for pretty cheap. It's all about having the time to go around on shop, which is something not everyone has.

However, some things are just not cost effective. Organic juice and good milk cost anywhere from 3-8 bucks depending on what you are getting. A 2 liter of root beer costs 99 cents. A small can of mixed nuts costs anywhere from 6-10 bucks. A bag of chips costs 99 cents. Anything organic is a good 50% more expensive than it's processed or insecticide-laden counterpart. I think we need some sort of balance with the prices of some of these foods. For that to happen, the price of junk food needs to go up to be comparable to it's healthy counterpart, in my opinion at least...

It doesn't all have to be organic. Instead of root beer and pepsi you get milk, OJ or things like apple juice. Very similar to the WIC programs but put on the national scale.

Gonzo
06-19-2012, 08:42 AM
I was just reading about an interesting program here in NYC (not sure if it's a national program) called Healthy Bucks. Farmers markets that accept food stamps (every one I've been to here) give one healthy buck for every $5 spent at the market with food stamps. Each "buck" is worth $2, which can then be used in any farmers market.

The problem is, I don't know how many people actually know about it, let alone would take the time to use it. I never see the same people at the farmers market that I do at the grocery store buying **** food with food stamps. I only found out about it when looking up another program: medicaid (thanks to the idiotic practice of companies not providing health care for 90 days for new employees and no healthcare companies providing gap coverage in NYC, that I can find anyways).

Gonzo
06-19-2012, 08:46 AM
I would think the indignity of being on food stamps would be enough. Now we need people to scold them and tell them what they can and cannot eat.
I've yet to see anybody that has any problem using food stamps. Hell, I've heard people bragging about it in the cashier line. Maybe it was an issue back when they had to hand actual paper coupons to the cashier, but now that it's a card system, nobody knows (unless the person is bragging about it, of course).

LANGER72
06-19-2012, 10:07 AM
The devil's advocate would point out that junk food is not only cheaper, but ridiculously cheaper, than healthy food. Yes, they are putting crap in their bodies, but they are getting 4-5 times more crap with that money than if they were buying fruit, veggies, raw meat, etc. Personally, I'd prefer if everyone ate right and stopped spending money on crap, but with the economy in the tank, most people can only afford the crap, especially those with multiple kids...


IMHO..The food stamps should be used for staple food, milk, and juice not snacks and soda/beer...or caviar, lobster, prime rib, ribs, or filet Mignon.
If families are using these programs to buy the food for parties, it is taking not being used as intended.
I am not sure how the system is set up because I have never needed it, but there should be some safeguards to regulate their use. With the technology we have today, the stamps, or debit card(or WIC) should have the persons name and they should provide a picture ID to use them. Also, certain expensive food items should be unavailable to be purchased using those systems. This will help prevent fraud. Cut off the fraudsters.

MadDog 88
06-19-2012, 12:38 PM
I would think the indignity of being on food stamps would be enough. Now we need people to scold them and tell them what they can and cannot eat.
Wayward, The intent is not to scold them but assist them in making healthy choices for themselves and their dependents. In the long run, the money saved by regulating can be used in other social programs. I bet not even the majority of those on food stamps are overly concerned with being indignant.

MadDog 88
06-19-2012, 12:42 PM
I agree with some of this. A savvy consumer would go to the supermarket and buy one of those 6 packs of chicken breasts for 10-12 bucks, knowing that they will probably provide 2 meals for a family of 3, really making the cost 5-6 bucks per meal. You can find good produce at a farmer's market for pretty cheap. It's all about having the time to go around on shop, which is something not everyone has.

However, some things are just not cost effective. Organic juice and good milk cost anywhere from 3-8 bucks depending on what you are getting. A 2 liter of root beer costs 99 cents. A small can of mixed nuts costs anywhere from 6-10 bucks. A bag of chips costs 99 cents. Anything organic is a good 50% more expensive than it's processed or insecticide-laden counterpart. I think we need some sort of balance with the prices of some of these foods. For that to happen, the price of junk food needs to go up to be comparable to it's healthy counterpart, in my opinion at least...Not all foods purchased would have to be organic and I wouldn't oppose giving a percentage of their allowance for snacks and desert. I am sure someone could figure out a way to at least regulate what is defined as "junk food" and how much is allowed.

jared81
06-19-2012, 02:12 PM
I would think the indignity of being on food stamps would be enough. Now we need people to scold them and tell them what they can and cannot eat.

i would love to see the world through your eyes. you have obviously never worked/lived or known someone who is around impoverished people. some people do feel indignity, but there are many people (especially in the black community), who believe that they are owed food stamps, they think it is their right to get free stuff from the government. my brother in law is a cop in one of the worst projects in orlando (pine hills, one of the highest per capita murder rates in the country), and he gets the "im owed everything from the governement" all the time.

if you dont believe me, go watch nancy pelosi's daughter clip (it was on the bill maher show), she is outside an unemployment office asking the area lossers why they take government money.

EDIT: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c2kGPdxkofo

i even posted a link for you, i know you probably spend much of your time helping the poor and are very busy.

Tetragrammaton
06-19-2012, 02:15 PM
I've yet to see anybody that has any problem using food stamps. Hell, I've heard people bragging about it in the cashier line. Maybe it was an issue back when they had to hand actual paper coupons to the cashier, but now that it's a card system, nobody knows (unless the person is bragging about it, of course).

If it started denying payment for food Carlos deemed inappropriate, I think people would know. My Visa and MasterCard don't discriminate for unhealthy choices.

jared81
06-19-2012, 02:16 PM
The devil's advocate would point out that junk food is not only cheaper, but ridiculously cheaper, than healthy food. Yes, they are putting crap in their bodies, but they are getting 4-5 times more crap with that money than if they were buying fruit, veggies, raw meat, etc. Personally, I'd prefer if everyone ate right and stopped spending money on crap, but with the economy in the tank, most people can only afford the crap, especially those with multiple kids...


Food Comparison McDonalds vs the Groccery Store

http://www.finheaven.com/clear.gif (http://healthycherryhappycherry.tumblr.com/post/12674528316)

SnakeoilSeller
06-19-2012, 02:17 PM
If it started denying payment for food Carlos deemed inappropriate, I think people would know. My Visa and MasterCard don't discriminate for unhealthy choices.

Do the taxpayers pay your VISA and or your Mastercard bill?

Gonzo
06-19-2012, 03:05 PM
If it started denying payment for food Carlos deemed inappropriate, I think people would know. My Visa and MasterCard don't discriminate for unhealthy choices.

WIC doesn't seem to create any problems in that arena. Your Visa and Mastercard don't discriminate because either it's your money that you earned or it's a purchase that is going to earn the credit card a good amount of money in interest, depending on how the individual handles his/her debt of course. Not quite the same scenario.

If they were to start limiting purchases to healthier options (which will never, ever, ever happen because there's WAY too much money to be made on multiple sides), no doubt notice will be sent out advising those receiving the benefits. Hell, stores will likely start putting signage up indicating whether something is eligible in order to avoid logjams at the register, just as they do with WIC. Should I feel sorry for those that find out the hard way despite plenty of notification? Some guy goes up and tries to pay for a bunch of candy bars with his card, I'm not going to feel sorry if it's declined.

Dolphins9954
06-19-2012, 08:50 PM
If it started denying payment for food Carlos deemed inappropriate, I think people would know. My Visa and MasterCard don't discriminate for unhealthy choices.

Your Visa isn't comparable to food stamps. 2 totally different things. As Gonzo said WIC does a good job with what you can or can't buy. Basically all WIC approved items has a big WIC sign right next to price. With the obesity and unhealthy food problems we have in this country do you really think we should all be paying for people to eat this crap???

Tetragrammaton
06-19-2012, 08:57 PM
Your Visa isn't comparable to food stamps. 2 totally different things. As Gonzo said WIC does a good job with what you can or can't buy. Basically all WIC approved items has a big WIC sign right next to price. With the obesity and unhealthy food problems we have in this country do you really think we should all be paying for people to eat this crap???

I don't think we need an overreaching government telling these people what they can eat. These people have enough problems as it is. Poor health choices are unfortunate, but even the worst food is still food.

Dolphins9954
06-19-2012, 09:05 PM
I don't think we need an overreaching government telling these people what they can eat. These people have enough problems as it is. Poor health choices are unfortunate, but even the worst food is still food.

LOL!!!

If they don't like it then don't get food stamps. The overreaching government isn't forcing them to eat healthy. What it would do is force them to pay for their own unhealthy food choices and not the taxpayer. WIC is a great example of how the food stamp program can work efficiently and healthier at the same time. Damn I used government and efficient in the same sentence.

jared81
06-19-2012, 09:24 PM
I don't think we need an overreaching government telling these people what they can eat. These people have enough problems as it is. Poor health choices are unfortunate, but even the worst food is still food.

The only think the government is overreaching by is keeping some of these people on entitlements from cradle to grave. This is supposed to be a safety net, not a program that promises them cell phones and flat screens forever.

LANGER72
06-21-2012, 06:30 PM
All that high carb, high sugar, and high fat "food substitute" keeps the medical industrial complex purring along.

It is a common theme. We need wars to build weapons...and we need obese and unhealthy people to build better medicines..