Friday, March 14, 2008

Food Stamps & Vitamins

Food stamp recipients can use their benefits to purchase “any food or food product intended for human consumption,” regardless of nutritional value, yet USDA policy prohibits the use of food stamps to purchase vitamin and mineral supplements whose specific function is to improve nutritional status.

Does anyone else but me object to a government policy that allows our food stamp tax dollars to be spent on sodas, potato chips, Twinkies and Oreos, but not on a basic multiple vitamin that can help prevent disease?


Mike Green, PhD said...

Nutritional supplements can serve as an effective bridge between what Americans should eat and what they actually consume.

Repeated studies have shown that the poor and elderly are more likely than others to have
insufficient and nutritionally inadequate diets. In fact, studies done by the USDA show that a very high proportion of women and children in lower income households fail to consume the recommended daily allowances of vitamins and minerals.

The Food Stamp Program should be expanded to include nutritional supplements providing vitamins and minerals.

Jessica Finney said...

I agree with Ellen. The people who use food stamps probably do not have great insurance and since we don't have an overall health system in America they should be able to buy vitamins to keep them healthly and living longer. Also what about the pregnant women who need to be on prenatal vitamins or the children who are not breastfeed and need vitamin supplements.

Jennifer Pace said...

I also agree that food stamps should include the option of purchasing nutraceuticals.
However, the reality of the fact is that the people who use food stamps are of the poor and elderly, and therefore (in most cases) not as well educated on medical issues concerning prevention.

I have no clue on what is involved in changing the policy of what food stamps include, and, playing devils advocate here, how much would it cost to change the policy and make vitamins part of the benefits that food stamp recipients receive? Then we have to think about how many and if the people on food stamps would actually take advantage of the new benefit and learn how important prevention and vitamins are.

As past blogs have suggested, money plays a much bigger role then we’d like it too in the medical world. Preventing disease is not only beneficial but a whole lot cheaper then treating disease! Personally, I believe vitamins should be included in “any food or food product intended for human consumption”, but unfortunately for us, money rules the world…and the people on food stamps don’t have the money.

John Hazlehurst said...

That does seem bizarre-but government policy re food stamps, school lunch programs, and virtually all publicly funded programs of similar nature have historically been driven by the agricultural lobby, as a way of expanding/maintaining/propping up the markets for commodities that are often in surplus.

Add processors, junk food producers, packagers, and wholesalers to the list, and you see the de facto vertical integration of political interest groups.

And food stamp recipients, written off by pols (especially Republicans) as anonymous, inconsequential losers, have no say in the matter.

Ellen's brief post is a dismal commentary on the sorry state of government-funded nutrition programs.

Sharee Parker said...

I agree with Ellen completely. The government should allow food stamps to be used for multiple vitamins.

People who have to obtain government assistance are usually not able to afford adequate health care, and therefore are not as “equipped” to routinely visit the doctor.

If the government allows Food Stamps to include vitamins, maybe those who are interested in preventing diseases, would actually exchange a box of Twinkies for a multiple.

Nancy said...


Sounds like you might be suggesting this Food Stamp program so the government can pay for poor people to buy your supplements?

Ellen Troyer, MT MA said...

Hi Nancy,

Actually not, since to my knowledge food stamps can only be used in food stores and Biosyntrx indication-specific supplements are only available through eye care professionals and from our web site. However, most food stores do sell low cost multiples of some kind, which is certainly better than nothing, given the substandard nutrient intake of the average consumer.

Unfortunately, the entire supplement industry is less than 1/10 the size of the pharmaceutical industry and much smaller than agriculture, so don't hold your breath waiting for us to have enough power on the hill to ever be approved for food stamps.

Dan Roberts, Director, MD Support said...

The policy is based upon an ignorance about the importance of supplementing our diet. Once again, it comes down to educating the people. Maybe it would help to use the term "food supplement," to avoid the candy-coated "Flintstone" image that companies have created to sell their products. It's time to get serious about the epidemic of malnourishment in countries other than Third World.

jeffrey anshel said...

Yet another example of ineptness in governement. They want vitamins/supplements to be regulated as "food" but not "real" food. But Twinkies and Oreos are considered food. Ah the irony....
If it weren't so sad, it would be funny.

Rob W. said...


If health conscious citizens could garner enough power on the hill to get the DSHEA bill passed in 1994, we have no doubt that an administration funded by $20-50 contributations from every day folks will be taking a lot of power away from the current inside-the-beltway folks who owe way too many favors for Pac money from the agriculture, food and pharmaceutical industries.

Larry Alexander said...

If there should be any legislation regarding food stamps it should address limiting use of taxpayer monies to a scientifically proven healthy diet. Food stamps will not count for twinkies, unless they are fried in extra virgin olive oil. Just kidding, but that is how silly the government is becoming. Again an example of intellect and science not influencing legislation, but rather lobbyists.

I would rather spend some of my tax money on education of the food stamp recipients regarding a healthy lifestyle.

Larry Alexander

Spencer Thornton, MD said...

It is unfortunate that there is no guidance from the administrators of the Food Stamp Program as to proper nutrition. That has to be learned. And as we've learned form the AMA and the CDC and other agencies, the very ones who need nutritional supplements are the ones who are the most bombarded with ads for junk foods, fast foods and other mass- marketed foods.

Until the Government, Health Insurance companies, and the Health-Care profession are pressured by the consumer public to change the policies, they will remain the same, to the disadvantage of the disadvantaged.

It is also unfortunate that some seem to think that speaking out on this issue is to serve one's own interests. That's like saying the doctor is hoping for people to be sick so that he can profit by their illness. How sad, and how shortsighted.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dan Roberts, You are right on the money! Isn't it interesting that most Americans still believe our diets are superior to all third world countries? The truth is we are overfed and undernourished and we can blame that on "pork barrel" promoting politicians who could care less about the overall health of the American population.

Pat Baker said...

The food stamp program seems to promote obesity and disease instead of health. Thanks for making me worry about this - along with everything else the government does wrong.

Hayes said...

Yes..... agree. Vitamins are so helpful in fighting diseases. Too using them through Vitamins Direct.

kay welch said...

Thanks for all of your information, Ellen. I had no idea food stamps could be used for junk food. In fact, I thought just the opposite. If people would eat better food and take vitamins, they would feel better and be up to the difficult task of job hunting.

Kay Welch

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