This is the first Agriculture Department study to reveal "purchasing habits under the program in detail," Jen Fifield reports for Stateline. "The report, along with the election of President Donald Trump, who may be more inclined to tighten welfare rules, has reignited a long-standing debate on whether the government should allow people to use food stamps to buy unhealthy food."
The study report said the data came from "a leading grocery retailer" during the 2011 fiscal year. The study analyzed the spending habits of about 3 million SNAP households; the report notes that purchases made at other SNAP-authorized stores were not included.
Studies have suggested that the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages lead not only to tooth decay and weight gain, but also to type 2 diabetes, elevated cholesterol and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease in children. Nutrition educators want to ban the purchase of junk food through the SNAP program, but advocates such as the Food Research and Action Center say banning certain products from SNAP would be too complicated and costly, Fifeild writes. "FRAC and similar groups that fight to end hunger, along with organizations representing merchants, are fervently opposed to restrictions, saying that along with being burdensome to implement, they are also unlikely to change eating habits."