Limiting Food Stamp Purchases is Only Part of the Solution

COMMENTARY | As reported by the Sun-Sentinel, Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, and Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Valrico, are sponsoring legislation to limit the purchase of certain food items made from food stamps such as soda, candy, and other treats. This creates controversy because some people feel this would be a violation of their rights since it should be an individual choice regarding what groceries they purchase. The other side of the argument is that when unhealthy foods are purchased via food stamps, taxpayers will in turn have to pay for the side effects of the unhealthy diet of those receiving the food stamps.

I understand the perspective that you should have choices but there should be a limit on the amount of unhealthy foods that are purchased with food stamps. As obesity rates increase and our society continues to rely on unhealthy food choices, health problems will in turn continue to increase as well.

I am aware that food stamps do not provide a large amount of groceries. Because of this, it is even more important to make sure that the items purchased are going as far as possible in the amount of meals that they make and be as nutritious as possible. This is not to say that someone using food stamps should not be able to purchase a treat. We all deserve to have dessert but it should not be for every meal or in place of a meal. This is something that all Americans need to learn. For instance, you can purchase foods that are filling and low cost in large quantities such as potatoes, rice, pastas, and beans. They are also versatile in the type of meal they make. I can purchase pasta for $1 a box or less and a can of spaghetti sauce for $1. I then can serve a can or two of vegetables as side dishes for an additional $2. This creates an entire meal for $4 that will feed a family of four that provides leftovers to bring to lunch to work the next day.

One thing that should be focused on is teaching food stamp recipients information about nutrition and how to prepare meals. This is something that is often missed in society today. We don’t teach our kids how to cook like in previous generations. If we don’t have the opportunity to learn this basic skill, we are not going to know how to prepare healthy meals for our families.

There should be limits on the amount of unhealthy foods that can be purchased with food stamps, but we need to look at the bigger picture. Everyone should be able to enjoy a treat now and then. What we need to do is offer nutritional education as part of the agreement in order to receive food stamps. Chances are many people using food stamps may never have had the opportunity to learn how to cook a meal or how to grocery shop in a way that will get them the most food for their money. How can we fault someone if they haven’t been taught what they need to know in order to make a good choice in the first place? I guarantee you most adults should learn these skills as well.

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