Words fail, obesity edition

Former Senator Rick Santorum in Iowa:

Santorum told the group he would cut the food stamp program, describing it as one of the fastest growing programs in Washington, D.C.

Forty-eight million people are on food stamps in a country with 300-million people, said Santorum.

“If hunger is a problem in America, then why do we have an obesity problem among the people who we say have a hunger program?” Santorum asked.

It’s times like this that I want to put my head in the sand, too. Remember this:

More than one in five Americans reported not having enough money to buy the food the they or their family needed. Unfortunately, there no data that separate out children, but I bet the numbers would be terrible. We already know that poverty rates for children are almost twice those of non-elderly adults, and closer to 2.5 times those for people over 65. So I imagine it’s likely that the percentage of children who are in families where buying food is an issue is higher than that represented above.

It is possible to have both an obesity problem and a hunger problem, in the same country. Just saying that we need to cut the food stamp program because the country as a whole has an obesity problem would be like saying that we can cut all funding to our troops in Afghanistan because our bases in Germany haven’t been attacked in a while.

Igor Volsky adds:

The cost of the food stamp program — the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — has jumped because more Americans are out of work and wages are down, not because of obesity rates. Recent data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that nearly “70 percent households that relied on food stamps last year had no earned income,” although many households did benefit from Social Security benefits and other government programs. But a whopping 20 percent of households had no cash income at all last year.

We can have a robust debate on the value of the food stamp program. I hope when we do that the depth of thinking on the issue will be better than I’m seeing in Iowa right now.


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