Several states and some politicians have tried to pass bans on allowing people to purchase junk food with food stamps, and the musician and celebrity vegan known as Moby is apparently on their side.
“Even though [the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)] is generally well-intentioned, what it puts on shelves is not always helpful or healthy,” Moby wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed published Monday.
The singer, whose real name is Richard Melville Hall, said the $70 billion a year food stamps program is a tremendous help to struggling Americans, but not when people purchase candy, soda, junk food and processed meats.
The junk food purchases only truly benefit food manufacturers, and damage the health of the hungry poor, Moby said. “Selling soda, candy and heavily processed meats is easy when the government picks up the tab. Under SNAP, the big food conglomerates go to the bank while the poor end up in the emergency room,” Moby said.
Moby doesn’t go so far as the Trump administration to suggest that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which administers SNAP benefits, develop a boxed meal program to assist needy families rather than letting people purchase their own individual items.
A good approach “would be to focus the program on cheap, healthy foods like beans, vegetables, fruit and whole grains,” according to Moby.
The USDA pitched “America’s Harvest Box” earlier this year as a possible solution to the junk food problem, cut costs and make food aid more efficient. The plan would drastically change how the program works, and would reduce revenues for many grocery and convenience stores across the U.S. who rely in part on food stamps dollars.
For Moby, the issue is personal as well. “My mother was a single parent who struggled to make ends meet in wealthy Darien, Conn., during the 1970s. We relied on food stamps until I was 16,” Moby wrote.
He does not support current congressional Republicans’ efforts to impose work and work training requirements on the program for able-bodied individuals. “To reduce SNAP’s costs, some have pushed stricter work requirements. This is silly; most SNAP participants are either children or elderly,” Moby wrote.
Congressional debates over reported food stamps changes have even threatened to derail the massive agriculture authorization legislation known as the Farm Bill. Democrats in the House Committee on Agriculture are refusing to negotiate on the bill until the Republican leadership makes assurances not to gut the program.
Limiting the food people on food stamps can buy will mean “healthier people, lower health-care costs, and a trimmer budget at the same time,’ Moby claimed.
Several states have asked the USDA for permission to test bans on junk food in the food stamp program. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, however, sees a danger in allowing states to ban certain foods from the SNAP program — and vegan activism is clearly part of his fear.
“My concern, obviously, when the USDA administers that, where do you draw the line of the different states?” Perdue said at a speech in December. “For instance if one state says that you shouldn’t have meat, shouldn’t be able to purchase animal protein, is that appropriate?”
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