Big agri-business, big banks and big bloated government are all colluding to keep the food stamp program growing to greater and greater heights – and weights. If the American taxpayer is going to pay $72 billion per year for the poor to get food stamps, is it reasonable to require they are used for food like milk, bread, cheese, meat, vegetables, fruit, etc? Should the American taxpayer be subsidizing the purchase of grape soda, cheetos, Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia ice cream, and Snickers bars? Isn’t the purpose of food stamps to keep poor people from starving?

Isn’t it great that processed food companies like Kraft can team up with anti-hunger groups to “lobby” (buy off) Congress to keep the dollars flowing for crap food sold to the poor at Wal-Mart and other low end stores. Meanwhile, JP Morgan sucks off hundreds of millions in fees, while the rest of Wall Street takes their piece of the action at the point of sale transaction.

The side benefit of subsidizing the purchase of soda and processed crap food is more ignorant fat asses getting sick and needing decades of government paid for care in the Obama government healthcare system. Paul Krugman is having an orgasm as the $72 billion has all these add on benefits to our economic system. It’s a win win for everyone. I think we need to make food stamps eligible for liquor purchases and drugs.

Marion Nestle on The (Big) Business of Food Stamps: “Here’s Where the Profits Come in”

In 2011, a record 46 million people – or 1 in 7 Americans — participated in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), better known as Food Stamps.

The increased use of Food Stamps is a huge social and political issue for America, and it’s also big business. In 2011, the U.S. government spent $72 billion on Food Stamps.

Among the beneficiaries, food producers such as Cargill, PepsiCo. (PEP), Coca-Cola (KO) and Kraft (KFT), as well as retailers like Wal-Mart. Of course, Wall Street gets a cut too, led by JPMorgan Chase (JPM), which administers the SNAP benefits in 24 states.

In the accompanying video, I discuss the (big) business of Food Stamps with Marion Nestle, professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University and author of several books, most recently Why Calories Count.

Generally speaking, Nestle is a supporter of the program, calling it “the only safety net we have left for the poor.”

However, with obesity rates rising among the poor — and obesity a huge factor in rising health-care costs — Nestle and other health experts wonder whether there should be restrictions on what kind of foods can be purchased with Food Stamps.

Currently, there are few restrictions on what can be purchased with Food Stamps, other than alcohol and prepared foods.

Here’s Where the Profits Come In

“Here’s where the profits come in,” Nestle says. “A vast percentage of Food Stamps’ money goes into the pockets of soda companies and snack food companies…and also the stores that sell these foods.”

Wal-Mart “gets a large fraction of Food Stamp dollars,” which contributes 25% to 40% of revenue at select stores, according to Nestle. “These companies, therefore, have a vested interest in making sure Food Stamps are allowed for any purchase at all.”

Funding for Food Stamps comes from the Farm Bill, which is currently being debated in Congress. “You can bet the food companies like it just the way it is and they are lobbying” to prevent restrictions on how Food Stamp dollars are spent, Nestle says.

Citing a recent report by public health lawyer Michele Simon at, Nestle recently made the following observations on her blog about “some of the politics behind efforts to maintain the status quo”:

  • Food industry groups such as the American Beverage Association and the Snack Food Association teamed up with anti-hunger groups to oppose health-oriented improvements to SNAP.
  • Companies such as Cargill, PepsiCo, and Kroger lobbied Congress on SNAP, while also donating money to America’s top anti-hunger organizations (who fear any changes to the Food Stamps program will result in benefit cuts).
  • At least 9 states have proposed bills to make health-oriented improvements to SNAP, but none have passed, in part due to opposition from the food industry.
  • Coca-Cola, the Corn Refiners of America, and Kraft Foods all lobbied against a Florida bill that aimed to disallow SNAP purchases for soda and junk food.
  • Banks and other private contractors are reaping significant windfalls from the economic downturn and increasing SNAP participation.

“The point here is that banks that administer SNAP have a vested interest in keeping SNAP enrollments high and makers of junk foods have a vested interest in making sure that there are no restrictions on use of benefits,” she writes.

As you’ll see in the accompanying video, one other thing stands out when discussing these issues: There is no public data available on how Food Stamp funds are being spent.

“If there are data on what Food Stamps are spent on, they are proprietary data the companies have and either the government doesn’t know, doesn’t have access or isn’t saying,” Nestle observes.

Whatever you think of the program or whether there should restrictions on Food Stamps, we have a right to know how (and where) these taxpayer funds are being spent.

Aaron Task is the host of The Daily Ticker. You can follow him on Twitter at @aarontask or email him at [email protected]


  1. Admin says:”Should the American taxpayer be subsidizing the purchase of grape soda, cheetos, Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia ice cream, and Snickers bars? Isn’t the purpose of food stamps to keep poor people from starving?”

    Well, I suppose, if it will kill them quicker. Let them buy cigarettes too.

    When I was much younger the people had to tear out food stamps of varying denominations from booklets in front of everyone, to get their food. Now, in the politically correct self-esteem world, just slide your card through the card reader just like a credit card so nobody knows.Just like the new definition of marriage. When you fill out the resume that says married, nobody will know whether it’s to another man, another woman, or a goat.

  2. Dont you know a nice bribe when you see it? Im still waiting for that campaign promise of money from energy production profits. Romney has to offer up something! Ron Paul seems pro drug legalizin. mabe pot for every home! The way things are going that would be popular.
    I know! Romney could pledge to hang all of congress!

  3. Ha! Reform from top down ain’t gonna happen because this place is so forkin corrupt. Reform from the bottom dwellers? not in their life!

    The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind. It’s a hard day a gonna come. (to quote Dylan)

    What can you do to hasten the inevitable in order to get back to some semblance of sanity? That’s what we should all be asking. Stop paying your credit cards, file bankruptcy, close your bank accounts, get on the snap train, but by all means use it to buy wholesome food.


  4. A small update:

    JPM gets more than $4 billion a year for handling SNAP transactions.

    $72 billion in SNAP spending is a fraction of the cost of treating obesity-related illness in SNAP recipients.

    More than 75% of people using SNAP are already obese.

    As an aside, usually when I go to the store, Wal Mart, and especially gas/convenience stores, I’m the only one paying cash. I have literally seen hundreds of SNAP recipients (75% obese) use their cards for doritos, slim jims, cases of coke, Starbucks iced coffee drinks, candy, and all manner of crappy food. Then, after they swiped/EBT’d, they whip out a twenty or hundred dollar bill and buy cigarettes or booze. They have no shame, no conscience, no guilt, and no amount of dirty looks by me does a damn thing.

    If Obama wins re-election, SNAP recipients will top more than 100 million; mark my words.

  5. Well, at least out here self-esteem is not much of a concern when Sheriff Joe puts the prisoners in pink jumpsuits.

  6. My favorite aspect of SNAP is… No drug test or background check required. Wanna join the military and work for a pittance at one of the most stressful and shitty jobs imaginable? You are per-screened, pre-and-constant random drug tested and if you ever fail one you get less-than-honorable lose your GI bill etc even with perfect service. SNAP? Nothing required. Between SNAP, section 8, TANF, utility subsidies, medicaid, headstart, (insert other government handouts here ad infinitum) you can make a better living, no accountability, and no risk of losing your income – its a better career than the military, no work required.

    I don’t even care if they use SNAP for grape soda. Be consistent RE the ‘War on drugs’. If its all ok, ban all employment testing and decriminalize it for everyone – not just the parasites of society. If drugs are ‘bad’ and people who use them deserve punishment and loss of jobs – then for godsakes pre- and random screening should be mandator for parasites as well.

  7. Funny SAH, my favorite part of paying taxes and submitting to ever-increasing encroachment and government sponsored theft, is the fact that NO elected official, nor any of their “pet” employees, have to submit to drug testing or background checks.

    We live in a country where a tax CHEATER is our Treasury Secretary. He paid ZERO fines or penalties for CHEATING the tax man.

    Meanwhile my customer paid $154,000 (I just spoke with him and I was off by a “bit” when I said $54k earlier), because he cannot prove the IRS received his 941 reports for 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005.

    He paid ALL the taxes and he filed all the forms, but he cannot “prove it.” Even though he never, in thirty years of business, neglected to file the form. Even though you are not required to send it certified, even though common sense demands he did too file the damn reports.

    The IRS agent that gleefully collected the penalty, isn’t tested, but you want the dregs to be?

    How amusing. I’m sure rolling out a massive thing like that would result in lower costs. Sure it would.

    Drug tests prove NOTHING, other than that you are smart enough to fool the test.

    What a bogus, feel-good, do-nothing, increase-costs, increase-government, mindset that is.

    Which means that people such as yourself will convince the politicians to do it.

    Fun, fun.

  8. I look at it like this and yes i am a snap recipient that not all are buying junk food cause they love it but most are buying it to survive. Have you noticed how high food cost today? Yes they are getting government assistance but trust me we don’t receive much at all and barely last the whole month! It cost to eat healthy and healthy food is extremely expensive! People are buying junk food because its cheap and that’s what they can afford. If they went buying $8 bag of fruits and $4 loaf of wheat bread trying to eat healthy, they will starve before the month is out. Who gives a damn if they are buying cigarettes and booze, apparently if they are on snap they are already having a life struggle as it is now you. wanna take his cigarettes away? That’s just thoughtless. I guess many of you were born rich but many poor only try to survive, don’t take that away from. them too.
    signing of Queen B

  9. Dimitri – hey, try this: buy flour, not bread. Buy whole grains. Buy lentils and beans. Buy basic fruit and vegetables. Cook for fuck sake. Healthy food is the CHEAPEST food.

    It is thoughtless to take their cigarettes away? Guess to take their vodka away would be thoughtless, too.

    You moron.

  10. im on welfear because im un able to work by doctor orders ,for people that wanna complain about low income people on foodstamps ,Try walking a mile on our income with minniume wage to just trying too get by,then you can bitch about it,.you would have a big prolem on government with low income to no food , for people … That a major help for us to be able to get food in the house for our children or our selfs, live in low housing projects and see what we deal with 24/7 … if you can servie with out help like a homeless person does then you can speak but the government need too keep the program , im thankfull for it in so many ways..

    1. audra

      On welfare and foodstamps, but has a computer. Maybe you wouldn’t be on foodstamps and welfare if you had learned how to write a sentence.

  11. I receive foodstamp benifits and medicaid for my familyand myself n im not ashamed. I have a family of six and my husband works 14 hr a day 5 days a wk. and he only makes 9 a hr. the govnerment give us 350 in foodstamp a month and im thankful. ive tryed to get other programs to help wiith daycare or headstart but they say my husband make too much but we quilify for foodstamps.??? Thats crazy to me. im trying to get help to get off the welfare but i get no help for trying to complete my degree or help my husband bring sum money in the house. its jus very confussing as to what they want. i thought the system was designed to help people save money and do better not to cripple them and make them stay on the program. n people like u geton sites to down play a person who is getting the services at hand. everybody doesnt see from the same side in any situation so dont be so quick to judge because my family and I work hard and still trying to get sum childcare so both of us can work..

  12. I wish there was a way at the cashier in stores that would reject payment with food stamps when junk food is bought.
    When one takes junk food to the register and they swipe the card it rejects all the junk.
    I’m sure there is an easier way to filter the healthy food from the junk food, but I just came up with this.
    Eventually it will get embarrasing enough that people won’t buy junk food.
    If you want to eat cake then you would have to make it from scratch.
    I was on food stamps in the 80’s and it never occured to me to buy junk food with it.
    My children are all grown now with degrees, but if worse comes to worse we would flip burgers to support our families.
    I really do commend those who are on assistance and have fallen on hard times.
    Work is good for everyone.


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