I have been saying and writing for years that low-income people who get SNAP benefits should not be allowed to buy soda (no matter how sweetened), cakes, pies, candy, or chips. The list of foods purchasable with SNAP should be similar to, but not quite as restrictive, as foods that low-income expectant mothers can buy with WIC benefits.

Having done nearly a decade of work with families in low-income housing communities and having lived in and around major cities in the Eastern half of the U.S., where there are substantial low-income populations, I have seen first hand how taxpayer dollars are wasted on food that is garbage in nutritional terms by people who either don’t know better or don’t care because someone else is paying the bill. This is called moral hazard.

The purpose of low-income assistance, such as SNAP, is not to provide long-term assistance (it is supposed to be a temporary helping hand, not a perpetual handout) and not to buy every conceivable item that a recipient might want. I don’t care that you want to buy Coke, Fritos, and Tasty Cakes. I just want you to buy them with your own money, not mine. Just the way I have to do…to the extent that I buy these things at all.

Maybe restricting SNAP, along with education and bolstering health literacy, is the way to get low-income people to think through their choices more carefully. Clearly, if you don’t have any skin in the game of creating a healthier lifestyle for yourself you will never do it. If you want the option to make your own food-purchasing choices, position yourself to succeed in school and the workplace, so that you can earn your way towards rationally pursuing the freedom that comes only through responsibility.

Dependency is a disease.

A food benefit program that pairs incentives for purchasing more fruits and vegetables with restrictions on the purchase of less nutritious foods may reduce energy intake and improve the nutritional quality of the diet of participants compared with a program that does not include incentives or restrictions.

Source: Effects of Subsidies and Prohibitions on Nutrition in a Food Benefit Program:  A Randomized Clinical Trial | JAMA Internal Medicine | JAMA Network