With almost one-in-seven Americans receiving food stamps, policy experts are asking if the feeding program is creating, rather than solving, problems, The Washington Post reported.
In South Texas, recipients often buy cheap processed junk food that makes them obese while also leaving them hungry.
The food stamp allotment in South Texas is about $1.50 per meal. One mother, Blanca Salas, 40, in order to get the most out of her $430 in monthly benefits, fed her five children on a diet "heavy in preservatives, fats, salt and refined sugar," according to the Post.
It was a diet that made the family obese or sickly and left them hungry.
This $430 allotment will be reduced because the additional funding the program received as a result of the stimulus package is being pared back.
Two billion dollars in junk-food is purchased each year nationwide using food stamps. The overall program costs taxpayers $80 billion a year.
Community activists say regulating what to eat is not the answer, that it would be bad policy to prohibit the purchase of certain foods and beverages using food stamps, according to the Post.
Some say it is better to teach people nutritional basics – portion sizes, the need to include more dark-green vegetables and whole grains, and replacing ground beef with fresh fish, according to the Post.
Salas said she shopped for "quantity over quality." Her choices were typical of others living in Hidalgo County, adjoining the Mexican border, where 40 percent of the people receive food stamps, and many are hungry and overweight.
Spending on nutrition education has been cut. Research suggests that for every $1 spent on nutrition education the government can save $10 in potential healthcare costs, the Post reported.
Salas was exposed to nutritional education and tried offering a healthy menu but found that both her budget and the diverse tastes of her children made it hard to live by, according to the Post.
Prepackaged diet lunches came back from school with uneaten turkey and leftover whole-wheat crackers.
• Food Stamp Assistance Set to Return to 2009 Levels
• USDA: Number of Food Stamp Recipients Reached Record High in 2012
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