Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Well, this is encouraging...

I happened to see this opinion piece in the NYTimes today by Tina Rosenberg. While our country has a long ways to go in reforming food policy, these are encouraging results. In my opinion, the WIC  and SNAP programs are fundamentally the same: they are both programs aimed at preventing low-income families from  going hungry. The only difference is that there is more individual freedom with SNAP, which currently has no restrictions on what can be purchased. Why is it that we guide the women, infants, and children (WIC) towards more nutritious food, but not individuals and families with older children (under SNAP)? I can't think of a logical reason, aside from the formidable lobbying power of the big junk food companies. How much longer can we really cheat ourselves and the health of our country like this? 

The director of the Yale Rudd Food Center is quoted saying  “There are people in the anti-hunger community who support a soda tax in general because it affects everyone, but they oppose banning soda from SNAP because it affects only poor people." 

Three things:

 1) Soda is still bad. For everyone. While taxing it at a higher rate may be a disincentive, why not just eliminate the support for buying soda?

2) To those who oppose banning soda and favor taxation (as a more general measure), isn't it obvious that failing to guide people towards healthier choices ALSO affects everyone? I mean, who's carrying the burden of healthcare for low-income individuals with largely preventable diseases? We all are.

3) Although a financial incentive to buy healthier foods is a great idea in theory, it seems that the limited scope and high cost are rather prohibitive. I think the root of all of these problems is lack of education, with the cost of healthy foods following closely behind. If we could just introduce low-income families to healthier options and support them financially and educationally, I think the research suggests that people will propagate these changes on their own. And then we really would all be better off. 

1 comment:

  1. Also: note how financial incentives, while expected to change decision behavior in theory, often fail to do so or fail to produce a long-term or intrinsic effect...

    For example:


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