Federal Food Stamp

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Federal Food Stamp Program

Federal Food Stamp Program


The Food Stamp Program (FSP) and minimum wage legislation have been used as instruments to eliminate poverty by policy makers for many years. As one of 15 food and nutrition programs, FSP is the largest federally-funded food assistance program in the United States. This program provides poor people with credits used only for food purchases. The Food Stamp Act of 1977 states that the Food Stamp Program is intended to permit low-income households to obtain a more nutritious diet by increasing their purchasing power.

To be eligible for food stamps, financial and non-financial factors are considered. In terms of financial aspect, households should have gross incomes below 130 percent of the Federal poverty guidelines, while they must have net incomes below 100 percent of the poverty guidelines to be eligible. With reference to non-financial phase, households have up to $2,000 in countable assets. The minimum wage also has been used in lowering poverty since the minimum wage legislation was enacted in 1938. This is another federal policy which helps low-income households.


Although the common purpose of these programs is to reduce hunger and poverty, these two federal programs have been suspected of driving up the rates of obesity among low-income households, those with incomes below the poverty guideline because the rate of obesity for low-income households is larger than that of non-low-income households. The third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) conducted, between 1999 and 2000, shows that 65 percent of U.S. adults are either overweight or obese.

Obesity is measured by the body mass index (BMI), which is defined as weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared (kg/m2). A BMI of 30 and above is classified as obese, and a value between 25 and 29.9 is labeled overweight. The percentage of the population classified as obese has more than doubled since 1980. The Surgeon General stipulates that overweight and obese people are at risk for heart disease, certain types of cancer, type 2 diabetes, strokes, arthritis, breathing problems, and psychological disorders, such as depression. As heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, obesity is considered as the most serious health problem in the United States.

According to Deaton:

There should be tighter restrictions on the federal food stamp program (Deaton, 2001).

Even though the FSP and minimum wage are very helpful in eliminating food scarcity and poverty for Low-income households, Douglas J. Besharov raises questions about whether federal policies and programs are unintentionally contributing to obesity problems. He points out that overconsumption of food in low-income households is the main cause of obesity. However, this argument is controversial.

The relationship between the Food Stamp Program (FSP) or the minimum wage and obesity is complex. This paper considers the effects of FSP participation and FSP monthly benefits on obesity levels. There is little literature to examine the relationship between FSP participation and obesity.

Townsend et al. (2001) classify three different groups: severely insecure women, ...
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