Moby is taking heat for criticizing the U.S. food stamp program in an op-ed titled, “Food Stamps Shouldn’t Pay for Junk Food.”
On Tuesday, the musician wrote in the Wall Street Journal that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly the Food Stamp Program, a federal effort that helps 40 million Americans buy food via a payment card, does not promote health.
“Even though SNAP is generally well-intentioned, what it puts on shelves is not always helpful or healthy,” wrote Moby. “SNAP rules allow stores to distribute candy, soda, cheese products, energy drinks, processed meats and lots of other items that end up seriously compromising the health of SNAP recipients.”
Moby disclosed that while he was growing up in Darien, Conn., his mother relied on food stamps to feed him. He also noted that research shows people collecting SNAP have worse diets than others and are more likely to be obese when compared with people at the same income level who don’t participate in the program.
Arguing that the solution isn’t to end SNAP but rather to reform it, Moby writes, “A better approach would be to focus the program on cheap, healthy foods like beans, vegetables, fruit and whole grains.” He says, “Congress should fix SNAP, not gut it. The U.S. can have healthier people, lower health-care costs, and a trimmer budget at the same time.”
In February, President Trump suggested revamping SNAP as “America’s Harvest Box” and offering shelf-stable (processed) food selected by the government in lieu of people purchasing their own food with payment cards. The proposed plan would slash SNAP benefits by $17.2 billion in 2019 and was criticized for being highly impractical and inefficient.
“What we do is propose that, for folks who are on food stamps, part — not all, part — of their benefits come in the actual sort of — and I don’t want to steal somebody’s copyright — but a Blue Apron-type program where you actually receive the food instead of receive the cash,” Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, told reporters, according to NBC.
Moby’s suggestion was met with equal disdain — many called him names such as a “vegan millionaire” and labeled him out of touch.
vegan millionaire: poor people shouldn't be able to buy candy or meat https://t.co/kI06mA0sIc
— Ben Walsh (@BenDWalsh) April 10, 2018
Moby, who’s rich, should STFU and stop pairing with the WSJ to punch the poor & advocate for controlling what they do. Being poor is stressful, eating healthy takes time many people don’t have. https://t.co/32FJFJ96ma
— Alexis Goldstein (@alexisgoldstein) April 10, 2018
We now turn to subject matter expert Moby, who has identified the key problems with SNAP: It is too good at feeding poor people, and not good enough at making them feel bad for eating the same foods as non-poor people. https://t.co/k2A0hxdDe1 pic.twitter.com/xSnt3juaBZ
— Gray Kimbrough (@graykimbrough) April 10, 2018
It’s a bit more complicated than that in that Moby is arguing against subsidiIng the junk food industrial complex. I would argue SNAP could encourage more healthy choices without telling poor families they can’t treat their kids to the snacks other kids enjoy. Dignity matters. https://t.co/PE160Aaqdg
— Joy Reid (@JoyAnnReid) April 10, 2018
Things Moby's op-ed doesn't address:
1.) Food deserts
2.) The fact that healthy food can be expensive
3.) The fact that some families on SNAP might not have the time/equipment to prepare healthy foods
— Parker Molloy (@ParkerMolloy) April 10, 2018
didn't realize food stamps could be used to buy Moby albums pic.twitter.com/o4ziTE1Tds
— Kevin Nguyen (@knguyen) April 10, 2018
Moby’s plan is problematic, according to Craig Gundersen, a professor in the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics at the University of Illinois. “The reason SNAP works so well is that it gives dignity and autonomy to families,” he tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “The notion of the government telling people what to feed themselves is insulting and could cause SNAP participants to drop out of the program altogether.”
Noting that Moby, a long-time vegan, follows his own unique diet, Gundersen says there’s an inherent danger in imposing specific menus on the public. “By his theory, how would SNAP cater to people with specific dietary needs stemming from allergies, religious beliefs, or medical issues?” says Gundersen. “It’s a slippery slope.”
There’s also a financial downside to Moby’s plan, he says, including rising food prices. “Companies would also have to label or categorize food either SNAP approved or not,” he notes. “And while that may be feasible for large organizations, it would be a massive undertaking for mom-and-pop companies, some of whom may opt out altogether.”
Gundersen added, “Being poor is stigmatizing enough — do we really want to embarrass people in the checkout line? We owe poor people dignity.”
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