I love a good paradox, don’t you? And sometimes I like to take mine with a side of situational irony.
A recent study appearing in this month’s journal of Economics and Human Biology – as reported by Science Daily – concludes that the US Food Stamp Program has actually been shown to contribute directly to weight gain. The study’s researchers found that food stamp users had an average Body Mass Index (BMI) of 1.15 points higher than those not enrolled in the program. In layperson’s terms this would be a weight gain of about 5.8 pounds. Also, the BMI of those studied tended to increase at faster rates, and the biggest weight gains were witnessed amongst female study participants.
Now the irony lies, of course, in the fact that the Food Stamp Program is meant to combat basic hunger by facilitating food consumption amongst sensitive populations. Would weight gain not then be considered a positive effect? Isn’t it poverty that tends to be a predictor of weight gain and obesity? Shouldn’t having access to bread, milk, meat and veggies make you healthier? Shouldn’t any food dollar assistance make one’s family healthier?
Let us consider, however, our list of Food Stamp “allowables” – which in many ways can be connected to conversations around what’s served in school lunches across the country. The basics such as breads, dairy meats, veggies and other staples are covered, but they are generally of a lesser grade (uncouth, discriminatory “government cheese” jokes anyone?). Certainly food stamps can be used to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables, but they can also purchase convenient frozen, prepared and high-fat products. Organics are only minimally allowed – if at all – with restrictions varying state-to-state, and food stamps still widely cover unhealthy, high-fat creations such as Lunchables and other food monstrosities.