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Should food stamp recipients get more meat?

Recession turns more people into semi-vegetarians, which may be healthier.

By Teresa Mears Dec 3, 2009 1:09PM

It’s no surprise that people are eating less meat during the recession.


The late Gourmet magazine published a story earlier this year about recession “flexitarians”  -- semi-vegetarians who eat meat occasionally.


The magazine noted that meat is the most expensive thing Americans eat, and reported a survey by the American Meat Institute that found that 51% of shoppers have changed their meat purchasing habits because of the economy.


That means there is a lot of surplus meat around, and the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture has proposed the recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps, get increased benefits with the added benefits card good only for specified dairy, poultry and pork products. The proposal also calls for the government to buy up some meat products and distribute them to school lunch programs or food banks.


The industry sees its Meat the Need proposal as a win-win plan: Farmers would benefit from the sale of their products, and poorer families would be able to buy meat products they couldn’t otherwise afford.


But Martha Rosenberg at AlterNet questions whether that is a good idea.

Is it really conscionable to dump products that the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association and almost every other health group say to limit on poorer people because no one else will eat them? To boost the economy? Because they have less choice? Especially when the products include processed meat, known for its carcinogenic potential?

Aren't people with lower incomes who receive food aid disproportionately plagued with diabetes, obesity, heart disease, metabolic disorders, high blood pressure, gallstones, fatty liver and obesity-related cancers already?

It doesn’t appear as if the proposal has gained much traction in Congress. A record number of Americans, one in eight U.S. adults and one in four children, receive food stamps, The New York Times reported last week. Many of them probably would appreciate the chance to buy more meat. And whether it would be harmful to their health would depend on their diet as a whole.


Which brings us back to the flexitarian lifestyle, which some have adopted by choice and some by necessity.


Many people have signed on the Meatless Monday movement, which asks people to give up meat once a week to benefit their health and the environment.

If you’re looking for suggestions on how to eat well on a budget, we like the blog Cheap Healthy Good, which is full of great tips on how to feed yourself and your family healthy food without breaking the banks. It includes a weekly Veggie Might feature by Leigh Angel. A recent post asked the blog’s readers for suggestions on how to feed a family with some vegetarians and some meat eaters.


Are you eating less meat, and is that by choice, by necessity or both? What are your greatest challenges in trying to cook healthy meals on a budget? What are your favorite recipes or places to find recipes?

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