SNAP program could be promoting obesity, study says

Staff at the Cole County Health Department say the county's WIC program compels pregnant and new mothers to purchase healthy food.

A new study suggests the USDAâ??s SNAP program may be promoting obesity and diabetes because it allows people to buy soda and other sugary drinks.

Researchers from Stanford University say taking away soda and other sugary drinks could prevent at least 141,000 kids from getting fat and 240,000 adults from developing type two diabetes, according to a study published in the June issue of academic journal Health Affairs.

However, mid-Missourians had mixed reactions to the debate over whether to ban SNAP recipients from purchasing sugary drinks with little nutritional value.

"The government really doesn't have any right," said Columbia resident Kevin Reynolds. "We're entitled to those benefits, if we qualify. Food is food. Everything pretty much turns into sugar if it isn't a protein in your body."

Jefferson City resident Rena Davis said she thinks few people are educated on how to eat properly and that restrictions are necessary. "When you're getting food stamps from the government, you should be using them for the betterment of your children," Davis said.

The USDA's website said there could be significant consequences if they restricted certain foods. They claim it isn't feasible to ban certain items because there are no standards for what passes as "healthy" or "unhealthy". They say restrictions would be expensive, and that recipients might buy unhealthy food anyway.

On the local level, however, Cole County's WIC program has many restrictions as to what recipients can get at the store. Director Kristi Campbell said her office at the Cole County Health Department serves 1700 people per month, and that the program is a success.

"Women and parents that are making choices for their children, they should be making healthy choices to improve," Campbell said. "To give them the food that they need to make their bodies grow."

Peggy Kirkpatrick of the Food Bank of Central and Northwest Missouri said in her experience, many people she knows are not well educated about nutrition.

"It's not just people in poverty who don't know good nutrition, it's all of us. All you have to do is look at somebody's shopping cart," Kirkpatrick said.