Guest Article: Brittany Smith on S.N.A.P. and Healthy Foods
Please enjoy an article from a friend of and guest of our show, Brittany Smith, Nutritional Health Specialist
Thoughts on the conversation surrounding S.N.A.P. and healthy foods
Hello to you followers of Eric and Friends! I hope this week finds you well. My name is Brittany Smith. I work as a nutritionist in Greenville, and I gave some input on Eric’s recent podcast covering his experiment regarding healthy foods and how feasible it is for a family to stay within their budget for foods and actually be able to eat healthy nutritious foods. Sadly, as most know, many times the cheaper foods, or foods that have the longest shelf life, usually are not the most nutritious foods, for example: crackers, canned meats, canned fruits and vegetables, sodas, packaged cookies, chips, frozen dinners, juices and sweet drinks that are not 100% juice, candy bars, etc. They are typically higher in sodium, sugar, fat or preservatives. When you look at nutritious foods such as fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, meats that are not canned or boxed, 100% juice, snack foods that are made with no preservatives, or even freshly baked bread, you are buying these foods, knowing they will probably not be as cheap and they will not sit on your shelf/ refrigerator and keep as long. Let’s just face it. It’s not an ideal situation.
In the conversation revolving around the S.N.A.P. program and possible reform to where participants is S.N.A.P. will be limited to healthy foods, what seems like a simple answer may not be so simple. On one hand, we have an incredibly large obesity problem in the U.S., so logically you could assume, limiting S.N.A.P participants to healthy food choices only could help make a dent in this obesity issue. However, we cannot forget what conclusions we have drawn from Eric’s experiment, or just plain looking at price tags at the grocery stores. Now, Eric recently interviewed a single mother of three that shared her experience with her family while they were receiving S.N.A.P. benefits. The lady’s testimony offers great perspective and I highly recommend listening to the podcast if you have not already. During the interview the mom discussed how hard it was just to be able put food on the table for her family with the benefits the limited benfits they received as a family of four. If you are a logical person, think about the effect that this proposed S.N.A.P. may have on any family in similar circumstances if they are limited to only redeeming healthy foods that could be higher in price.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge proponent of healthy eating. My personal opinion is that the foods you eat are directly correlated to your health, well-being, and longevity. With this understanding, I also have to mention that I work for WIC. WIC is a supplemental nutrition program for women, infants, and children up to age 5. It is funded by federal grant money. Since it is funded by grant money, the program is only able to offer nutritious foods such as low fat milk, cereal, eggs, fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, and beans. Part of my job is to offer nutritional counseling and health education to participants on the WIC program and after almost two years of working for WIC, I have come to this conclusion: Regardless of any regulations, guidelines, and limitations that may be a part of programs such as WIC or S.N.A.P., true change in one’s eating habits or lifestyle has to come from a personal decision. At my job, I can tell a client that they will not be able to get soda with their WIC benefits, and leave it at that. On the other hand, I can discuss the sugar and sodium content in soda and talk about how this type of drink is not beneficial to your body. The latter, is always the better approach with my clients because it shows respect for their ability to make educated decisions, and empowers them to know more about what they consume and how it helps or hurts their body.
All that being said, I truly believe in health education, and I believe it is a key to solving the obesity issue in America. However, I feel that if any reform towards S.N.A.P. happens, it needs to factor in the additional cost of healthier, fresher, and more nutritious foods, and how this could negatively affect struggling families. It would be awesome, if the program could provide extra benefits when healthy choices are made at the grocery store. I have no idea what the options could be, but I am convinced the answer is not just pushing people into a reform that could be the difference between a child getting enough to eat on a daily basis or not.
*Opinions reflected in this post reflect the writer’s personal opinions and views.
Nutrition Education Specialist