09.12.2011 0

When entitlements meet Big Government regulations

KFC and Taco BellBy Rebekah Rast — America is a nation that invests heavily in its social welfare programs. One program in particular is growing so quickly that independent companies are catching on and now wanting a piece of the government-subsidized pie.

Food stamp benefits, also called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), have grown by leaps and bounds as high unemployment continues to plague the nation.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that one in eight Americans was enrolled in the program as of February of this year. Anti-hunger group Food Research and Action Center was quoted in a Reuters article stating, “This is the highest share of the U.S. population on SNAP/food stamps.”

The cost of the program has skyrocketed as well. USDA records show food stamp benefits went from $28.5 billion to $64.7 billion from 2005 to 2010.

Since this is a program fully subsidized by the U.S. federal government, more companies including retailers and restaurants want to be involved and reap the benefits as well.

The latest chain of restaurants lobbying for their share is Louisville-based Yum! Brands. Its restaurants include Taco Bell, KFC, Long John Silver’s and Pizza Hut.

“It makes perfect sense to expand a program that’s working well in California, Arizona and Michigan, enabling the homeless, elderly and disabled to purchase prepared meals with SNAP benefits in a restaurant environment,” Yum! spokesman Jonathan Blum told USA Today.

But some groups aren’t so excited about fast food restaurant’s bid to get involved.

USA Today quoted Kelly Brownell, director of Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. She said, “It’s preposterous that a company like Yum! Brands would even be considered for inclusion in a program meant for supplemental nutrition.”

What concerns her is fast food is not as healthy an option as a grocery store and allowing consumers to use food stamps at a fast-food restaurant might only propagate the obesity epidemic in America.

Ironically, First Lady Michelle Obama shared similar concerns about the obesity problem and continually encourages children and adults to eat healthier. In fact, her main issue so far while in the White House has been to reduce the obesity rate among children. Allowing food stamps to be used at fast food restaurants might very well disrupt her goal.

So will those who overwhelmingly support government handouts like food stamp benefits restrict their usage to conform to their own ideals? Even as food prices continue to rise and the cost to feed a family at a fast food joint makes more economic sense?

The road of entitlement has crossed the road of government regulation and the agenda of those who favor Big Government is stuck at the fork.

What a world we live in when the people who support doling out money for food programs to feed those in need have to then decide if participants in their program can purchase food from places that sell it at a more reasonable price. It’s no wonder programs like this always turn into Big Government boondoggles.

Rebekah Rast is a contributing editor to Americans for Limited Government (ALG) and NetRightDaily.com. You can follow her on twitter at @RebekahRast.

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