The continuing debate on SNAP restrictions

There has been a lot of discussion and debate lately about placing further restrictions on the types of food that SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the new name for the food stamp program) participants can purchase. For example, alcohol is already not allowed. Here is a nice article from slate.com outlining the controversy.

The SNAP program issues pre-paid debit cards to participants, which they can use at grocery stores or convenience stores, and even some farmers’ markets (but not restaurants). So, what do you expect the impact of the SNAP program to be on the demand for food? What types of “food bundles” do you expect people to buy? What are some factors that will influence the foods that people buy? When you go to the store, how important is price versus taste?

This debate seems to have been ignited by the epidemiology of obesity and non-communicable diseases in the U.S. People started asking: since low-income people are more likely to be overweight, why do they need help buying food? Well, that brings us automatically to another interesting question: are healthy diets cheaper, or more expensive? Professor Adam Drewnowski of the University of Washington has done lots of research on this topic, if you’re interested to check it out.

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