Debate – Does SNAP need to change?

For an in-class debate, I am arguing against the idea to reform SNAP, however, in reality I beleive SNAP needs to be reformed. 

The Food Stamp program has come a very long way since it began in the early 1940s with many reforms over the years including provisions such as: The division of responsibilities between states; Income eligibility guidelines; Restricted eligibility for students and aliens; Increasing access for certification; Authorizing nutrition education grants; State option to require job searching; and the list goes on.  One of the most recent provisions is the EBT, the Electronic Benefit Transfer which is the system that allows the recipient to receive their benefits by swiping their own plastic card.  This idea was proposed in 1988 and was finally passed as a law in 2000, but it wasn’t until 2004 that all 50 states were using this electronic system, 16 years later.

Due to the size of the SNAP program, it is difficult, timely and expensive to pass new provisions.  The proposed idea of not allowing the purchasing of sodas or other junk food items using food stamps will not prevent the purchase of it.  Putting more restrictions on the eligibility of foods would be very difficult to enforce, first agreeing on which food items are eligible and which are not and then somehow programming all the registers in all of the participating stores is not only a gigantic and expensive task, but it starts to infringe on human rights.

“The government should not stigmatize them by taking away their right to shop like other consumers.” “The restrictions are insensitive and condescending in assuming that the poor are uniquely unable to make sensible dietary decisions.”  Although it is not SNAP’s responsibility to educate the public on how to make healthy choices, the ability to buy junk food with food stamps is not the source of the problem.  Implementing education about nutrition and people’s purchasing power needs a sense of urgency, so the population is not told what to buy but why to buy it. 

By 2008, the newly named program SNAP was benefiting 29 million people per month, and with the 2008 Farm Bill, long term goals were met such as “strengthening integrity, simplifying administration, maintaining state flexibility, improving health through nutrition education; and improving access.”

Rather than micromanaging the lives of the poor, or penalizing the poor, lets target the companies that manufacture the unhealthy food and tax the ingredients most used in their production.


Resources include:

McGeehan, P. (2011). U.S. Rejects Mayor’s Plan to Ban use of Food Stamps to Buy Soda Retrieved from:

Nestle, M. (2011). San Francisco Chronicle: Food Stamps and Sodas. Retreived from:




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