Food stamps were designed to enlarge the choices of poor and hungry people, rather than to limit them to the most nutritious items. Alcoholic beverages and tobacco were banned. But otherwise, the stamps were to be used to buy “almost any ordinary food,” according to news accounts at the time.
The result was the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, run by the USDA to which Bloomberg has appealed. Groups opposing the ban seem to be concerned over what they perceive as the federal government's attempt to further control individual behavior. As a nation built on the principle of personal liberty, perceived threats cause great alarm. Bloomberg is no stranger to this type of criticism, having defined his mayoral career on public health initiatives that banned the use of trans fats, prohibited smoking in bars and restaurants and required food establishments to label calories. But what makes the food stamp question different is what some believe to be a prescription for what poor people may or may not eat. But at the heart of the matter is the question of food. Food stamps should be extended toward the acquisition of food, but what qualifies as food?