Getting the Most Out of Food Stamps

The Lempert Report
May 22, 2015

How can supermarkets help customers meet the Food Stamp Challenge?

Are food stamps recipients at a greater risk for obesity? According to new research the answer is yes! A study from the USDA looked at data from thousands of participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, conducted from 2007 to 2010. Results showed that Americans who received food stamp benefits were more likely to be obese than those who did not, including those who qualified for benefits but didn't receive them.

But it's important to note that the rest of the population isn't eating too well either!   The average diet of food stamp recipients scored a 56.8 on the healthy eating index, versus 60.3 for eligible non-participants and 60.2 percent for wealthier people. As noted in The Huffington Post that's, "the difference between an F and a D-minus," so most people should need to improve! 

This study comes out at a time when several celebrities are trying, and failing,  to complete the Food Stamp Challenge, - $29 per person for all your food for 7 days, which comes out to $1.38 per meal.  While the likes of actress Gwyneth Paltrow failed miserably, some were successful. Take for example, Chelsia Rose Marcius from the New York Daily News. Her tips? Selecting the right grocery (no Whole Foods for this challenge), carefully dividing meal portions on Day one and keeping careful note of things like how much cereal you pour every morning. So what did she buy for the week? 2.21 pounds of chicken breasts; 12 large eggs; 6 ounces of popcorn; one jar of peanut butter; 16 ounces of baby carrots; half a gallon of almond milk; one jar of tomato sauce; 19.2 ounces of lean ground turkey; 5 pounds of red potatoes; one box of shredded wheat, and seven apples.

Both the study and the Food Stamp Challenge shine some light on how it can be tough to make good choices when shopping on a budget or through the SNAP program.  It requires more planning and more thinking and it needs to be done right. Supermarkets should assist here by helping customers plan out the week and budget. Highlight meats, produce and products that can go towards several meals, offer tips and recipes that can work with smaller budgets and help customers plan out their week. If supermarkets are to be a resource to their neighborhood, for most that help can start with shopping for the week and meal planning on a budget.