May 31, 2011

Obesity & Food Stamps

(click on image to place in new window, if truncated.) One point worth mentioning, vis-a-vis yesterday's post on the obesity epidemic, is that the percentage of the American population going over the 30 BMI line appears to have leveled off since about 2006 (based upon a statistical trend study embedded at the CDC website, which looked authoritative). This seems definitely true for women, and equivocally true for men as well (it was not as clear), and the phenomenon does not appear confined to any particular racial, ethnic or income subgroup. It can generally be said that obesity correlates strongly with poverty, which looks paradoxical until one realizes that calories are not really expensive anymore. Good food costs a lot, but just "eating something" is still relatively cheap, as a percentage of overall living costs. For example, a Happy Meal, with its cornucopia of near-fatal ingredients, costs considerably less than a pound of good, grass-fed hamburger.

When I found this study, it caused me to reconsider my own "informed opinion" that the obesity figures were increasing by about 1% per year across most demographic lines; this appears not to be the case lately, particularly among adult women, who are obese at numbers somewhat higher than their male counterparts. It's not an exact congruence, but it's curious that the leveling off would occur contemporaneously with a marked increase in the use of food stamps. I have not seen a careful regression analysis by anyone to test this "hypothesis" (whatever hypothesis I have in mind), but it's something to think about (food for thought, even).

Curious as I am (a trait I share with my cat Jewel), I looked up the list of things you can buy with food stamps to see if I could find a clue. I was surprised to see that food stamps are not really very restrictive at all. Here's the government's description:

Eligible Food Items

Households CAN use SNAP benefits to buy:

Foods for the household to eat, such as:

-- breads and cereals;

-- fruits and vegetables;

-- meats, fish and poultry; and

-- dairy products.

Seeds and plants which produce food for the household to eat.

In some areas, restaurants can be authorized to accept SNAP benefits from qualified homeless, elderly, or disabled people in exchange for low-cost meals.

Households CANNOT use SNAP benefits to buy:

Beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes or tobacco;

Any nonfood items, such as:

-- pet foods;

-- soaps, paper products; and

-- household supplies.

Vitamins and medicines.

Food that will be eaten in the store.

Hot foods.

My deductive suspicions are that there is indeed a correlation between the abatement of obesity increase and America's emergence as Food Stamp Nation. If you read between the lines, what the SNAP program appears to compel (besides heartless and gratuitous cruelty where animals are concerned, but this is America and thus to be expected) is that participants buy food in the store and eat it at home. Also, you can't buy booze with food stamps. Thus, at one go, the relegation of so many of our fellow Americans to food stamps means that it's much harder to buy and eat food at fast food restaurants, with their trans-fat french fries, balloon bread hamburger buns, and 48-oz. poisonous elixirs of flavored water laced with a pint of high fructose corn syrup; AND no help with the Thunderbird chaser to help settle that toxic waste in one's rounding gut.

If the obesity epidemic has leveled off because of "public information," I would assume that all we're talking about is Morgan Spurlock's "Super Size Me," because I can't think of much else the government has done (with the possible exception of Michelle's garden). This outbreak of "leanness" (okay, that's really overstating it) is like the famous description of greatness: some are born lean, some achieve leanness, and some have leanness thrust upon them.

No comments:

Post a Comment