America is gaining weight and the most vulnerable populations are those with low levels of education and income, as well as those with black or Hispanic heritage. The most obese state in the country, Mississippi, also happens to be the poorest. And with the rates of obesity increasing in 16 states last year and declining in none, America’s diet is influencing policy, politics and programs.
Unfortunately, the system is working against people, instead of for them. An obesity study released this week through a joint effort by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation reveals further evidence of a brewing crisis, not least in the area of food stamps.
According to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization monthly Food Price Index for June 2011, world food prices increased by more than 39% June 2010. This comes at a time when more Americans than ever are participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as the program for food stamps. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the program added 17 million people in the last four years.
What was once viewed as a social stigma is now an economic necessity for one in seven Americans.
With the influx of food stamp participants, it’s important to note a recent study by Ohio State University’s Center for Human Resource Research that found food stamp recipients have a higher body mass index than non-recipients.
Research scientist Jay Zagorsky, co-author of the study, says the cost of healthy food is a significant barrier to Americans on food stamps. “It would be very difficult for a shopper to regularly buy healthy, nutritious food on that budget.”
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