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Food Stamps And Farm Policy--Does This Marriage Make Sense?

When the government subsidizes corn, it effectively subsidizes dairy, too. Government nutrition programs push dairy as a cheap protein source, even though it doesn't make sense for most Americans, in particular, people of color. (Kayte Young/WFIU)

This week on Earth Eats, we continue our discussion of SNAP, also known as food stamps. Harvest Public Media has a story on some of the barriers and requirements to receiving food assistance. SNAP is included in the farm bill, which is up for renewal this year.

We return to our conversation with Angela Babb from Indiana University's Department of Geography. She talks about the conflict of interest inherent in the US Department of Agriculture's management of farm policy and government nutrition programs. She examines some of the contradictions between USDA recommended diets and what's actually affordable at the grocery store.

Angela Babb studies the USDA's Thrifty Food Plan, which is a cost-of-food calculation that determines the allotment for households receiving SNAP benefits. Babb suggests that the calculation needs to be revised so that families can afford healthier foods.

Babb also talks about dairy being subsidized by the USDA, through feed (corn) subsidies, and how the USDA Thrifty Food Plan relies heavily on milk as a significant source of cheap protein. The plan ignores the fact that many Americans are lactose intolerant and that people of color have high percentages of lactose intolerance compared with white populations (of European descent).

Many who study the issue, including Babb, are calling for the government nutrition programs to shift from the USDA to the Department of Health and Human Services. This move could prevent the conflict of interest the USDA faces in setting farm policy and nutrition policy.


Spring rains and warmer temperatures mean it is time for foraging in the woods for wild edibles. We have two recipes for ramps, from Chef Daniel Orr.

Stories On This Episode

Obtaining Federal Food Benefits Takes Time, Patience

The first in Harvest Public Media's five-part series on SNAP looks at the application process for receiving food stamp benefits.

Glyphosate Label Moving Forward In California

The state of California will move forward with labeling glyphosate as a "possible carcinogen."

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