It’s not enough that the Obama administration spends a mind-boggling $79.8 billion on food stamps, now it’s funding a special research center that will find ways to help recipients of the welfare program make healthier and wiser food choices.
It will be called the Center for Behavioral Economics and Healthy Food Choice and Uncle Sam will distribute at least $1.9 million—possibly more—to create it. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which spent an astounding $108.9 billion on food and nutrition assistance in fiscal year 2013, is doling out the cash. Food stamps account for the largest chunk of the agency’s nutritional assistance spending, which is aimed at eradicating food insecurity in the United States.
But it’s not enough to give a record number of people living in the U.S.—some illegally—free groceries, the government has a duty to ensure the food is healthy and nutritious. At least that’s the argument behind this brilliant project. “The USDA Center will facilitate new and innovative research on the application of behavioral economics theory to healthy food choice behaviors that would contribute to enhancing the nutrition, food security, and health of American consumers,” according to the agency’s grant announcement.
The focus will be on finding ways to facilitate healthy and cost-effective food choices for food-stamp recipients and those who get other types of government-subsidized meals. This is expected to be done by establishing an “innovative research program on behavioral economic and healthy food choice that addresses questions of public policy interest and importance,” according to the agency. To do this a network of social scientists will research ways to improve what poor people eat.
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