Stamping Out Obesity

Double vouchers help bring fruits and veggies to the tables of those in need

| July-August 2011

  • stamping-out-obesity

    Ranjit Bhatnagar /

  • stamping-out-obesity

When food stamps were created in the 1960s to help fight hunger, the goal was to get calories to people who were starving. But today’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) (the new name for food stamps) is associated with high levels of obesity among those facing “food insecurity” (the new name for hunger).  

Simple economics is partly to blame for this paradox, reports Melanie Mason in The Nation (March 28, 2011). “Healthy choices like fruits and vegetables are as much as several thousand times more expensive per calorie” than foods containing fats, oils, sugars, and refined grains, she writes.  

One solution to the problem is dubbed the “double voucher,” which is already used by 160 farmers markets in 20 states. The program, reports Mason, matches a certain amount of money from SNAP benefits, “essentially doubling the customer’s purchasing power” for buying fresh food.  

Later this year, a federal pilot program in Massachusetts will offer an incentive for healthy eating by adding 30 cents to select participants’ SNAP benefits for every dollar spent on fruits and vegetables. While these programs reach a tiny fraction of the more than 43 million Americans who currently receive food assistance, they could lead the way to a more robust, and slimmer, nation.

cover-166-thumbnailHave something to say? Send a letter to This article first appeared in the July-August 2011 issue of Utne Reader

Pay Now Save $5!

Utne Summer 2016Want to gain a fresh perspective? Read stories that matter? Feel optimistic about the future? It's all here! Utne Reader offers provocative writing from diverse perspectives, insightful analysis of art and media, down-to-earth news and in-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.

Save Even More Money By Paying NOW!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $5 and get 4 issues of Utne Reader for only $40.00 (USA only).

Or Bill Me Later and pay just $45 for 4 issues of Utne Reader!

Facebook Instagram Twitter

click me