Monday, February 20, 2006

Columnist Michelle Holmes: Put some strings on food stamp entitlement

The Post-Tribune's Michelle Holmes writes:
In modern-day America, it’s obesity, not starvation, that is harming kids and killing people who should be in their prime.

But food stamps are still buying soda pop, potato chips and deep-fried frozen dinners — and according to cashiers, buying them in droves (the U.S. government can’t be bothered to track purchases).

It’s the all-American irony: Our land of riches is killing us, especially our poorest and most vulnerable.

That’s why it’s time to put some strings on this entitlement, which, in Indiana, has shot up 85 percent in the last five years alone.
In the most interesting sections of the column, however, Holmes gives her main thesis a second thought.
It’s a taboo topic. Politicians and decent folk duck it like the plague. There’s an ugly tone about the question, that conjures up the sentiment: I can have my cake, but you can’t eat yours, too.

Yet what’s wrong with limiting junk food to 10 percent of benefits? Why not reserve 15 percent for fresh fruits and vegetables? Why not say we want our billions to go to building healthy bodies and strong brains, not diabetes, cancer and heart disease?

My friend Aletha, who often uses food stamps to get by, argues it’s cruel and un-American to single out the poor for the nutritional police.

“Nobody ever listens to that darn food pyramid,” she argues. She’s making efforts — weaning herself from the cheap, empty calories so appealing in the freezer case when her benefits come in. But that’s her choice to make, not mine, she argues.

“If you let the government intrude into food choices, where are they going to draw the line?”

I understand her sentiments.
I fear I may be one of the "polititians and decent folk" Holmes has in mind. What bad company those decent folk keep!

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