Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut are Lobbying to Get a Piece of the Food Stamp Action

I’ve written before about the explosion in the number of Americans who participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps, since the beginning of the Great Recession at the end of 2007. Currently, around 45 million people receive SNAP benefits at a rate of about $133 per participant, per month. That’s nearly 15% of the total population, and is a true (rather than government/media-manipulated) indicator of the state of the economy.

And now, in a story that should be as predictable as night following day, comes a report that one of America’s worst peddlers of the junk food causing our rampant obesity epidemic has been lobbying the government to get a piece of that action. Here’s USA Today with the story:
The number of businesses approved to accept food stamps grew by a third from 2005 to 2010, Department of Agriculture records show, as vendors from convenience and dollar discount stores to gas stations and pharmacies increasingly joined the growing entitlement program.

Now, restaurants, which typically have not participated in the program, are lobbying for a piece of the action.

Louisville-based Yum! Brands, whose restaurants include Taco Bell, KFC, Long John Silver's and Pizza Hut, is trying to get restaurants more involved, federal lobbying records show.
So why are they so hot to trot to participate? The article goes on to state:
There is big money at stake. USDA records show food stamp benefits swelled from $28.5 billion to $64.7 billion in that period.

Four states accept restaurants, with Florida the most recent to begin a program.

"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 said.
Ummm…I don’t wish to sound like a rude contrarian there, Mr. Blum, but it does not in fact “make perfect sense” to include your company in the SNAP program. Let me be perfectly frank with you if I may, sir. Your food is shit. It is barely fit for human consumption at all, let alone by poor people who have very limited culinary options as it is. You and your ilk are merchants of death who kill countless Americans every year through diabetes, heart disease and other obesity-related illnesses. Your company is right there with the tobacco companies, difference being that they only get their government agriculture subsidies on the producer end.

Sadly, we have become a nation so unmoored from basic common sense and decency that we could actually regard enabling someone to buy a large bucket of KFC poppers as an appropriate social welfare benefit. As it is, we already have the fattest poor people in the world because of corporate America loading much of what we eat with corn syrup and other unhealthy additives to get people addicted to the type of diets that are slowly killing them.

Make a profit getting people sick eating cheap, crappy food, and then profit again when they seek medical care and drugs to treat the resulting chronic health conditions. It’s a classic win-win right out of the Harvard Business School. For nothing in this country, not even our basic health and well being, is so sacred that you can't put a price tag on it.

The answer from the Department of Agriculture (which runs SNAP) to Yum! Brands and any other fast food chain which lobbies for approval to participate in the program should of course be: Hell No. But I’m certainly not holding my breath that it will be.


  1. Question: when did we lose our soul as a nation? When did we decide, once and for all, that everything had a price and there were simply no such things as matters of conscience?

    I'm not that old, 50 (well, okay, ancient according to my kids ;-), but I remember clearly a time when people made decisions of conscience all the time. People chose to spend slightly more to work with people they knew, or do business with local companies. Examples of these kinds of decisions are too numerous to list. They were just the way things were done because people mattered, and because people knew the difference between wrong and right and simply did what was right. Note: My memory isn't so rose-colored that I somehow think American society was ever "perfect". There has always been greed, deceipt, fraud, theft, etc. It's just that it used to seem to be the exception, and now it seems to be the rule.

    What sold us on the idea that it was money, and only money, that matters?

  2. Interesting, and this at a time when Australia is about to legislate greater control over junk food inasmuch as restricting advertising and increasing the taxes on it while simultaneously dropping the taxes on healthy foods (in essence to make junk food more expensive than fresh food).

  3. Australia's solution would be struck down in the US as being an attack on the Fast Food's industries civil rights.

    Rather like the Arizona law that allowed taxpayer money to match corporate donations in 'fair elections' was unconstitutional because it put a burden on 'corporate free speech.'

  4. @bmerson - I'm only a few years younger than you, but I too recall a time when greed, deceit, fraud and theft were the exception rather than the rule.

  5. @Harry - Sadly, you are absolutely right since our corporations are "people" now.

  6. The answer from the USDA will probably in fact, be "Hell No!" but not because the food at these establishments is crap. It will be because of political pressure not to allow the lazy shiftless poor to be even more lazy and shiftless by purchasing ready made food.

    Never mind that some of these households hold down two or three jobs with wages so low that they still qualify for SNAP, no sir, they should not be allowed to sit on their lazy butts during their approximately one hour a day of "leisure" time lazily downing pre-cooked chicken nuggets. If they want chicken nuggets, they will have to cook chicken nuggest themselves. Or fashion them out of "surplus" cheese. Or something.