Nutritious Foods Increasingly Out of Reach for Many Poor

May 15, 2005

Researchers from Boston Medical Center (BMC) and Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) have found that low-income families in Boston that rely on food stamps have difficulty purchasing enough high-quality food-in part because of newer food pyramid recommendations for more fresh vegetables and fish in the diet. Proposed cuts in the federal Food Stamp being proposed by the Bush Administration may further put healthy food out of reach for many children in families that rely on this program. More than half of Food Stamp recipients are children.

Researchers from Boston Medical Center (BMC) and Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) have found that low-income families in Boston that rely on food stamps have difficulty purchasing enough high-quality food-in part because of newer food pyramid recommendations for more fresh vegetables and fish in the diet. Proposed cuts in the federal Food Stamp being proposed by the Bush Administration may further put healthy food out of reach for many children in families that rely on this program. More than half of Food Stamp recipients are children.

John Cook, PhD, presenting the Boston study findings today, reported that "malnutrition and overnutrition are serious health problems in the United States. Both conditions are impacted by food insecurity and limited access to nutritious food." Dr. Cook noted that the Food Stamp program originated out of concern over exactly those nutrition issues.

The national standard for a nutritious diet at minimal cost is known as the USDA Thrifty Food Plan (TFP) - a standard that serves as the basis for food stamp allotments. The research team, test-shopping at various-sized stores in three low-income Boston neighborhoods, assessed prices for a TFP for a family of four and for a modified healthier diet that conforms to American Heart Association (AHA) recommendations.

Their findings? The maximal food stamp allotment payment, although sufficient for shopping in medium-sized stores, was insufficient for purchasing foods on the TFP at small and large grocery stores and bodegas.

"Not only do the findings show that most food recipients in Boston are unable to afford the government's minimally nutritious diet," concluded Cook, "but the cost of healthier foods on the AHA diet far exceed the maximum food stamp allotment."

Cook ended with a question: "Should we balance our budget on the backs of our most vulnerable children and families?" (Platform Session 5149)