Ethical imperatives against item restriction in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Sommaire de l'article
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) is the federal government's largest form of food assistance, and a frequent focus of political and scholarly debate. Previous discourse in the public health community and recent proposals in state legislatures have suggested limiting the use of SNAP benefits on unhealthy food items, such as sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs). This paper identifies two possible underlying motivations for item restriction, health and morals, and analyzes the level of empirical support for claims about the current state of the program, as well as expectations about how item restriction would change participant outcomes. It also assesses how item restriction would reduce individual agency of low-income individuals, and identifies mechanisms by which this may adversely affect program participants. Finally, this paper offers alternative policies to promote healthier purchasing and eating among SNAP participants that can be pursued without reducing individual agency. Health advocates and officials must more fully weigh the attendant risks of implementing SNAP item restrictions, including the reduction of individual agency of a vulnerable population.