Yum Brands, the fast food giant behind Taco Bell and KFC, was pushing to have food stamp benefits useable at their restaurants. With the company’s revenue falling 7.9 percent last year, Yum was looking to get a piece of the multi-billion dollar pie that is the food stamps consumer market.
[Author's note: allowing food stamp usage should not to be confused with allowing the use of Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards. "So far, California, Arizona, Michigan, Florida and Kentucky allow EBT meal purchases at state-approved restaurants," reports Spare Change News.]
Food stamp use has been on the rise since the economic downturn in 2008, with over 45 million Americans using the program in August. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), one of several food benefits programs nationwide, alone distributed $64.4 billion to food stamps users.
However, given that one of SNAP's stated goals is to provide "nutrition assistance," the idea of subsidizing thousands of KFC "Double-Downs" was met with opposition.
“Why should the government underwrite the cost of junk food for people on food stamps, leading to increased rates of obesity?” writes Jay Miller of the Journal Sentinel. “It is just as perverse to have the government subsidize the cost of junk food for people on food stamps as it would be to help pay for cigarettes or booze. The logic - if not the intent - defies all understanding.”
As a part of the health-concerned backlash against Yum's lobbying efforts, 3 of the 4 states Yum approached have declined, and Ohio will not make a decision until 2013 at the earliest.
After being turned down by the various states, Yum decided to abandon their efforts to allow food stamps at their establishments.
The USDA reiterated its position against food stamp usage at fast food restaurants, saying that the program should promote access to "healthy foods" only.
Some might feel compelled to argue that the government has no place dictating which foods food stamp recipients can purchase. But others might say that since the program costs taxpayers $60 billion annually, if food stamp users really need their fix of breakfast burritos, they might consider making the purchase on their own dime.
In short, beggars can’t be choosers.
What do you think?
[Editor’s note: portions of the above originally appeared on Wall St. Cheat Sheet.]