The foundation for food stamps goes back to the early 30s and The Great Depression, but it wasn’t until 1939 when Secretary of Agriculture, Henry Wallace, created the ‘Food Stamps Plan’ that the initiative was formalized. Iterations of that act would follow, each with rules on what you could and couldn’t do with those stamps. Right now, the newest legislation regarding the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, doesn’t allow the purchase of booze, cigarettes, or food sold for in-store eating. It’s thought 42.6 million Americans are receiving SNAP benefits, and even though this should be easing the weight of the yoke of the poor, a lot of Americans are unhappy about food stamps. 

As we said, people cannot buy tobacco and alcohol with their food stamps, or even a taco from 7-Eleven, but some people fret that the average recipient of the stamps who gets $125.51 per month is filling up their cart with luxury items or junk food. Just so you know, the government also does not allow the purchase of pet foods, soaps, other cosmetics, paper products, vitamins and medicine, household supplies, seeds, or plants. Now we’ll tell you what they can, and do, buy. We will also tell you what the top 10 items are for households not receiving food stamps.

Number 10. Lunchmeat

Lunchmeat comes in at number 10, and for households not getting any SNAP, number 10 is ice cream. This data by the way comes from a study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that actually runs the SNAP program. Lunchmeat was number 17 on the list for most bought commodity items of non-SNAP households. If you are not from America and wondering what lunchmeat is, it’s just cooked, processed meat such as sliced ham. It could also mean sausage. Is it good for you? Many health gurus say certainly not. Let’s just say number 10 might not be the right choice, but with little cash to spare, it might also be one of the only choices. About 1.5 cents from every dollar for commodities went on these meats.  

Number 9. Frozen handhelds and snacks

What is a frozen handheld you might ask? An example would be a Hot Pocket, something you can cook easily, as its ready-made, and eat like a sandwich. Are they good for you? Apparently not. These fast-food, microwaveable snacks according to some media don’t really join the class of “real food.” Frozen handhelds and snacks didn’t make the top 20 for non-SNAP households.

Number 8. Fresh Chicken

Here’s where non-SNAP and SNAP households are very similar. Fresh chicken is number 11 on the list for most bought commodities on the non-SNAP list. Can chicken be bad for you? That’s also a matter of controversy. According to the documentary, Food Matters, the answer is yes, but for the most part fresh chicken is a good thing on your shopping list. It’s full of protein and minerals, and depending on how you stand on the subject, may have been farmed ethically or unethically.

Number 7. Cold cereal

Who doesn’t enjoy a good bowl of frosted flakes? Cold cereal is both number seven on the most bought commodity item for SNAP households and non-SNAP households. According to the report, most of this is spent on kids cereal, which is usually the very sugary stuff and so not exactly full of health benefits. The study also said, “All family cereal was ranked first for non-SNAP households and fifth for SNAP households.”

Number 6. Baked Breads

Bread, an old saying goes, is “the staff of life”. That’s because at some points in history, people haven’t had much else to eat. It’s demonized a little these days as being the reason people are growing in size, but who doesn’t eat bread? For typical households, bread is the fourth most purchased commodity. According to LiveStrong, bread is just fine, and contains iron, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and folate. The site just warns about eating sweetened bread.

Number 5. Cheese

If you saw any number of articles on America’s excess cheese, you’ll know why cheese is being put into virtually everything. The country just produces way too much of the stuff, but the cheese wheels of business just have to keep turning. Bloomberg reports that right now, America has 1.2 billion pounds of surplus cheese. It’s not surprising then that regular households have it as the number three commodity. It makes you fat if you eat a lot of it, we all know that, but it tastes damn fine.

Number 4. Bag snacks

Another thing high on the list for SNAP households and maybe one of the things here that really can’t be said to be good for you at all, unless all you buy in a bag is roasted almonds. It’s number five on non-SNAP households, so there isn’t really any difference. Most of what is purchased are chips and pretzels, and just about anywhere you read, you’ll find these things are almost empty in nutritional value. They are highly fattening, full of salts and other chemicals, and being this high on both lists, we could hypothesize that chips addiction is one of the reasons for the American obesity epidemic and consequent high rates of heart disease, among other diseases.

Number 3. Ground Beef

If you’ve seen our shows featuring burgers, you’ll know that Americans are the masters of burgers. On average, it’s said that people in the U.S. eat three burgers a week, and judging by ground beef coming so high, you’d think some of those burgers are made at home. Ground beef is number six for regular households. Is the stuff good for you? Most health experts agree it’s ok in small amounts, but it seems that’s not how it’s being consumed. The quality of beef is also a factor, but most nutritionists do say go easy on the red meat.

Number 2. Milk

There have been arguments for and against milk going on for a long time, and they are still going on today. Some advocates of milk consumption say it makes us grow big and strong, and those against it say we are not cows, and if we don’t want to grow fat and unhealthy, we should not consume milk in large amounts. Well, it’s the number one purchase for regular households, so whatever the experts say, people are just going to drink it.

Number 1. Soft Drinks

This takes the number two spot for regular households, and so you could say Americans love these sugary drinks whether rich, poor or in the middle. In fact, studies revealed that one third of U.S. citizens drink these sugar-laden drinks every day, which is actually quite a lot less than a few years ago. No one has ever doubted that they are entirely bad for you, and numerous studies have shown how they are a major factor in the American fatness, and the attendant illness, problem.

In conclusion, we could say the American diet is pretty bad for both SNAP recipients and non-SNAP households. Of course, many nutritional foods are not on this list, but there is still a lot of junk food here. What is perhaps also important to see is that those people that criticize SNAP families for wasting their money on junk food buy almost the same as they do. As Quartz said in an article after reviewing the study, “The reality is that most Americans consistently use their grocery money to buy unhealthy items, and food stamp beneficiaries are no different in this regard.”

So, what do you think about food stamps? A worthwhile handout or a waste of money? Let us know in the comments! Also, be sure to check out our other video called What a Million Dollars Gets You Around the World?! Thanks for watching, and, as always, don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe. See you next time!



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