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Food Stamps


A Jan. 9, 2014 article on the website of abc News talked about how the correlative relationship between Congress’ recent cuts to the SNAP program and a down-the-road increase in medical bills. Doctors theorize that if food stamps recipients aren’t able to buy nutritious foods and maintain their health, the federal government will see a negative return, with more and more people visiting their doctors for health- and food-related issues.

The founder of Children’s HealthWatch pediatric institute, Dr. Deborah Frank of Boston Medical Center, even went so far as to call cutting nutrition to save on healthcare costs “the dumbest thing you can do”, citing a lack of understanding in “the hunger-health connection.”

Particularly worrying is Congress’ plan to cut $8.7 billion over the next decade in the upcoming Farm Bill on top of the already-cut $5 billion that occurred on Dec. 28, 2013. Republicans want to eliminate the “heat and eat” part of the SNAP program, a clause in which food stamps recipients whose utilities are worked into their monthly rent will still extra SNAP benefits. Critics of “heat and eat” see this as unfair and unbalanced because food stamps recipients not paying utilities still get to keep money in their pockets, as well as receiving more in SNAP benefits; currently, recipients who get as little as $1 in energy assistance automatically receive more in food stamps. However, by closing the loophole, the $8.7 billion cut would only take extra benefits away from those who don’t qualify for energy assistance.

But medical professionals like Dr. Frank worry that the cut would still do more harm than good. Research studies cited in the abc News article show that children who don’t have consistent access to healthy food are 30% likelier to be hospitalized. The same study found that after the temporary boost to food stamps in 2009, children fared far, far better. It seems as though the extra money has a direct influence on the health conditions of children, as well as people in general.

One of the biggest consequences of receiving less in SNAP benefits means that recipients have to buy cheaper food, which is often high-calorie “junk” that leads to malnutrition. Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) has vowed to vote against any Farm Bill that contains the cuts, saying, “Food is medicine.”

But perhaps the strongest words come from the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Dr. Thomas McInerny: “The children may not look malnourished the way children in Third World countries look, but they are malnourished.”


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