Linking Food Aid to Good Nutrition

January 12th, 2009 | Sources: Washington Post

Call it sad, ironic, paradoxical or whatever you want, but it’s true—there’s a link between hunger and obesity.

According to the Partnership for America’s Economic Success for example, toddlers living with families that have gone hungry are more than 3 times as likely to be obese.

And anti-hunger activists have long known that poor people purchase more fast food and calorie-leaden snacks because they are cheaper and easier to access than, say fruits and vegetables.

Right now an all-time record 31.5 million Americans record receive food stamps, and a third of our children are overweight or obese. Many expect these problems to worsen as the Great Economic Crisis unfolds.

But some public health advocates think the Crisis may have created an opportunity to link food assistance to proper nutrition once and for all.

Or as Kenneth Hecht, executive director of California Food Policy Advocates told the Washington Post. “What we wanted to do (in the past) was get more calories to people. Now we find it isn’t more calories. It’s more of the right calories.”

His non-profit lobbied California legislators to create incentives for food stamp recipients to purchase nutritious food. They did and the Terminator signed the bill, but the program languished due to poor funding.

But other NPOs have interesting experiments underway. The Wholesome Wave Foundation recently began a program for example that doubles the value of food stamps when used to buy fruit and vegetables.

“We’re not taking away your benefits because you spend them on Twinkies,” Michel Nischan, Wholesome Wave’s president told the Washington Post. “But if you decide you want to spend it on fresh tomatoes, you’ll get double your money.”


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