This news isn't entirely surprising, considering the multitude of factors that are at play when considering poverty and health. The poorest members of our community are the least likely to exercise, and most likely to buy cheap, high-calorie, low-nutrient foods. A person's access to and education about healthy, nutritious food is typically proportional to his or her income. Most of the time these facts aren't the result of choice, but rather circumstance: "cheap" foods are often the only option, given the amount of a person's weekly income used toward food.
The press release that accompanies the study ends with the obvious bits of information: the foods made available to people on food stamps are not the healthiest, and better access to healthier foods needs to be a top priority for policymakers. From the study:
Government statistics showed that the average recipient received $81 in food stamps per month in 2002, the last year examined in this study.Farmers' Markets are an obvious starting point for discussion about increasing this access. But we need to work toward more education at national benefit banks and Child and Family Services offices. Much of the time, all it takes is a push in the right direction for a positive change to happen. Hopefully this study will be the impetus for a more intensive look into the issue of healthful-food access to everyone in our community.
"That figure was shocking to me." (Study co-author Jay) Zagorsky said. "I think it would be very difficult for a shopper to regularly buy healthy, nutritious food on that budget."
That's because calorie-dense, high-fat, processed foods tend to be less expensive than more healthy choices.
Zagorsky said policymakers should aim at changing the types of food that program participants purchase.