Health Officials Seek Improved Options for Food-Stamp Recipients
California public health officials want individuals who participate in the Restaurant Meals Program to have healthier options than fast food, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Lack of Healthy Options in Food-Stamp Program
California's Restaurant Meals Program was launched in 2004 and operates in several counties, including Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Francisco andÂ Santa Clara.
The program allows individuals to use food stamps at participating local restaurants. However, among the vendors that participate in the program, almost 94% are fast-food establishments.
Allen Ng, USDA's western regional director, recently sent a letter to the California Department of Social ServicesÂ urging the state to educate food-stamp recipients about selecting healthier foods. Ng wrote, "The state sets the standard for restaurants to participate, and can be selective about what restaurants are approved."
However, Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services Director Philip Browning said that finding restaurants willing to accept food stamps is difficult. He said, "There is a stigma about the people we serve," adding, "There was some question about what kind of individuals are going to be coming into their restaurants."
Browning also said the Los Angeles social services department lacks the necessary resources to determine which restaurants have enough healthy food choices and would require another agency to carry out the duties.
Oscar Ramirez, a spokesperson for the California Department of Social Services, said the agency is working with counties and the state health department to develop a brochure to educate food-stamp recipients about choosing healthier foods.
Still, Jessica Bartholow -- a legislative advocate with the Western Center on Law and Poverty -- said that fast-food restaurants "are part of our eating environment" because they "offer low-cost options."
She said, "It'd be so awful to see people skip meals" if fast-food options no longer were available to them (Lopez, Los Angeles Times, 8/2).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.