Here’s a modest proposal: Stores that accept food stamps should have to sell food. Not just caloric rocket fuel, but also food that doesn’t lead to diabetic amputations.
That’s the idea behind a rule change that the federal Food and Nutrition Service is considering. I haven’t completely made up my mind about this, but I gotta say, it sounds somewhat reasonable. But convenience stores hate this idea.
The rule change (here) would require that stores carry staple foods — “meat, poultry, or fish; bread or cereals; vegetables or fruits; and dairy products” — if they want to accept food stamps (or SNAP benefits, if you want to be technical). It clarifies that pre-made meals aren’t staples, nor are snacks (“chips, dips, crackers, cupcakes, cookies, popcorn, pastries, and candy … coffee, tea, cocoa, carbonated and uncarbonated drinks, condiments, spices, salt, and sugar”). The rule also makes a few other minor changes, like reinforcing the point that restaurants are not “stores.”
I’m all for giving as much freedom as possible to people struggling economically. It might make more sense just to write checks, or institute basic income, rather than providing food stamps. But as long as we have food stamps, it seems logical to use them to nudge people toward healthy eating, and nudge stores toward selling real food.
Hat tip to Helena Bottemiller Evich of Politico.