The USDA wants to spend millions of taxpayer dollars on movie tickets, talking shopping carts, and other incentives to encourage people on food stamps to eat healthier. The United States Department of Agriculture is also hoping to urge major changes to grocery stores, such as enhanced lighting over the produce section.
As expected, the USDA food stamps high price tag plan immediately garnered backlash. The federal agency assembled a “panel of experts” to come up with the recommendations to guide the 47 million Americans on food stamps away from the chips and towards apples and oranges. The USDA panel released an 80-page report earlier this month outlining the way they want to influence shopping choices and spent the funds of taxpaying citizens.
The free movie tickets would be based on a points earing system where food stamps recipients could receive the prize in exchange for healthy food purchases. Apparently showing a grocery store receipt would be required. It is unclear if points are deducted in those garnering the free movie tickets munch on butter-covered popcorn and large sugary sodas while at the movie theater.
An excerpt from the USDA plan reads:
“Most Americans, including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants, do not purchase enough whole grains, dark green and orange vegetables, and legumes, and purchase too many items with excess calories from fats and added sugars. At the same time, the food retail environment is saturated with food marketing messages, including health and nutrition claims and information, advertisements, and promotions for many unhealthy food items.
The ideas are intended to change the choice architecture of the food retail environment to make healthier choices more prominent, which is in line with first lady Michelle Obama’s stated second term agenda to impact the nature of food in grocery stores.”
The plan also includes enticing grocery stores around the United States to offer SNAP-Ed cooking classes complete with healthy eating consultations and dieticians. “In this approach, the supermarket is the classroom and shoppers receive support on how to maximize their healthy choices using products retailers promote via the weekly store circular,” the report also added.
If the USDA plan is actually put into action, the government staffers want supermarket employees to act as “ambassadors” for the agricultural agency’s plan. The report stated that that grocery store staff has the ability to “redirect” customer purchases toward healthy choices and explain how the incentive plan works and the nutrition labeling system.
The USDA experts reportedly based the incentive approach on a $999,891 government-funded study entitled Nudging Nutrition. The report suggest that an intervention such as outlined would successful “modify consumer shopping behavior.”
Food stamp recipients are currently able to use government issued debit style EBT cards at ATM machines. The practice of sticking the plastic intended to provide food for children and their parents into a machine and then using the cash for anything desired has long been a hotly debated topic.
While waiting in line at a local convenience store recently, a food stamp recipient used a card at an ATM, withdrew the cash, walked into the store’s “beer cave” and grabbed six pack. Before falling in line behind me, the individual stopped in the chips aisle and allowed her four young children to pick a treat from the candy aisle. A man next to be in line whispered, “Those kids will be hungry long before the end of the month, no wonder all the items donated to the food bank disappear so quickly.” Maybe a movie ticket provided by the government would curtail such spending, but if cash on demand was not allowed, such purchases would immediately stop.
What do you think about the USDA food stamps plan?