Startling Look At How Much Money Food Stamp Recipients Spend On Junk Food

Tyler Durden's picture

A new study just released by the USDA, offers a very detailed look at exactly how participants in the "Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program" (SNAP, aka Food Stamps) spend their taxpayer-funded subsidies.  Unfortunately for taxpayers, the amount of money spent on soft drinks and other unnecessary junk foods/drinks is fairly staggering.  But, we suppose it's a nice taxpayer funded subsidy for the soda score one for Warren Buffett and the Coca Cola lobbyists.

Per the study, nearly $360mm, or 5.4% of the $6.6BN of food expenditures made by SNAP recipients, is spent on soft drinks alone.  In fact, soft drinks represent the single largest "commodity" purchased by SNAP participants with $100mm more spent on sodas than milk and $150mm more than beef.

Soft drinks were the top commodity bought by food stamp recipients shopping at outlets run by a single U.S. grocery retailer.


That is according to a new study released by the Food and Nutrition Service, the federal agency responsible for running the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as the food stamp program.


By contrast, milk was the top commodity bought from the same retailer by customers not on food stamps.


In calendar year 2011, according to the study, food stamp recipients spent approximately $357,700,000 buying soft drinks from an enterprise the study reveals only as “a leading U.S. grocery retailer.”


That was more than they spent on any other “food” commodity—including milk ($253,700,000), ground beef ($201,000,000), “bag snacks” ($199,300,000) or “candy-packaged” ($96,200,000), which also ranked among the top purchases.



Even worse, when we added up all of the commodities that would typically be considered "junk food" (i.e. soft drinks, candy, cakes, energy drinks, etc.), we found that roughly $950mm, or just over 14% of the aggregate $6.6BN of food expenditures made by SNAP recipients, is spent on unnecessary, unhealthy products.



As CNS News points out, the study was conducted by IMPAQ international and analyzed the sales of a single national retail chain back in 2011. 

The dollar amount that food stamp recipients spent on soft drinks and other commodities comes from data a retailer provided to a data analysis company the federal government hired to find out what kind of foods people on foods stamps—and Americans not on foods stamps—were buying.


“The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) awarded a contract to IMPAQ International, LLC, to determine what foods are typically purchased by households receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistant Program (SNAP) benefits,” the study explained. “This study examined point-of-sale (POS) food purchase data to determine for what foods SNAP households have the largest expenditures, including both SNAP benefits and other resources, and how their expenditures compare to those made by non-SNAP households.”


“POS transaction data from January 1, 2011 through December 31, 2011 from a leading grocery retailer were examined for this study,” the report said.

It's a good thing democrats re-branded Food Stamps as the "Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program"....otherwise we would have confused it for a blatant waste of taxpayer money on sodas and energy drinks.

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WorkingClassMan's picture

The gimmedats getting to enjoy some HFCS courtesy of me, the taxpayer. I hope they die.

HRH of Aquitaine's picture
HRH of Aquitaine (not verified) WorkingClassMan Nov 23, 2016 9:05 PM

They are dying from obesity and cheap sugar. You do realize that you are subsidizing not only their shopping habits but their medical care, too, right? Or are you a complete idiot and Neanderthal?

Paul Kersey's picture

"Per the study, nearly $360mm, or 5.4% of the $6.6BN of food expenditures made by SNAP recipients, is spent on soft drinks alone."

I don't get it. This article hits the S.N.A.P program at $6.6 billion a year, but I keep seeing numbers more like this:

"SNAP benefits cost $74.1 billion in fiscal year 2014 and supplied roughly 46.5 million Americans with an average of $125.35 for each person per month in food assistance."

And this:

"Republicans and Democrats often complain about the cost of food subsidization for the poor, but the reality is some of their biggest and most powerful constituents are profiting from SNAP, aka Food stamps, in several sinister ways. The total budget for The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is $72 billion a year.

A bombshell report by tells the not so difficult to believe tale of how big businesses lobby heavily in Washington, D.C. to keep the food that can be bought through food assistance programs unhealthy and cheap, while mega banks like J.P. Morgan literally skim billions off the top by forming payment processing agreements for all now electronic transactions."

The Blank Stare's picture

Frozen Pizza is a vegetable in their scummy world.

tmosley's picture

14% on junk food? That's 17 times worse than the Holocaust!

Seriously, how much does the average, non-SNAP spending person spend on junk food? I'd be surprised if it were much less.

J S Bach's picture

Where's the fried chicken, watermelons and chitlins on that list?

Stuck on Zero's picture

If the government would just tax junk food it could get some of its money back.

NoDebt's picture

Grape drank.  It's what's for dinner.


NoDebt's picture

For those of you who don't live down at "street level" and don't know how this shit really works in the real world, here's NoDebt's tutorial for the uninitiated:

1.  Use EBT to buy cases of soda.

2.  Sell cases of soda for 50 cents on the dollar (or less)

3.  Buy drugs with the proceeds.

No, I'm not shitting you.  This is how shit really works down in the gutter where I used to live.  Ain't nobody dying of malnutirition no matter how poor, but there's plenty dying of Type 2 diebetes.  That should tell you something.



Hope Copy's picture
Background The Nutrition Assistance Program (NAP) in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico provides a monthly benefit for food to low-income households that includes both cash and noncash portions. Three- fourths (75 percent) of the benefit must be redeemed for eligible food items through electronic benefit transfer (EBT) at certified retailers. The remaining 25 percent may be redeemed in cash. The entire benefit (both the noncash and cash portions) is to be used only for the purchase of eligible food items. The purpose of the cash portion is to give participants with limited access to NAP-certified retailers a way to purchase food from other stores. Section 4025 of the Agricultural Act of 2014 (Public Law 113–79) reauthorized NAP and included a provision to phase out the cash portion of the NAP benefit coupled with an equivalent increase in the noncash portion. Beginning in Fiscal Year (FY) 2017, the cash portion of the benefit declines by 5 percent each year (20 percent of benefit in FY 2017, 15 percent in FY 2018, etc.) until the benefit is entirely noncash in FY 2021. The law also mandated a study to examine the history and purpose of the cash portion, barriers to redeeming the noncash portion, and use of the cash portion for the purchase of nonfood and other prohibited items. The study must also assess the potential adverse effects for both participants and food retailers of replacing the 25- percent cash portion with noncash benefits. This study fulfills those requirements. The law allows USDA to exempt participants or categories of participants if the study finds that discontinuation of cash bene fits is likely to have significant adverse effects. .....
Manthong's picture

EBT cards should only be good for powdered milk, kale, government cheese and soda crackers.

That is a much better diet than most Yemenis are getting nowadays.


Holy hand grenade of Antioch's picture
Holy hand grenade of Antioch (not verified) Manthong Nov 24, 2016 4:26 AM

4 basic food groups (ENCINO MAN)


Dairy Group ~ MILK Duds

Vegetable Group ~ Corn Nuts

Fruit Group ~ Sweet Tarts

Donald J. Trump's picture

Actually it's more like this:

1. Go to corner sto

2. mohammed rings your EBT card for $500

3. mohammed gives you $250.

4. buy drugs and a slice of pizza on the other corner.

Uzda Farce's picture
Uzda Farce (not verified) Donald J. Trump Nov 24, 2016 1:50 PM

Over $2 million at the "Obama Express" store in Baltimore, busted a couple of years ago:

"Abdullah Aljaradi, age 51, of Baltimore. Second Obama Express, 901 Harlem Avenue, Suite A. From October 2010 through July 2013, Aljaradi allegedly obtained more than $2 million in payments for food sales that never occurred."

See photos:

Grosvenor Pkwy's picture

Caffeine is a harmful and addictive drug. Note that the top categories here are "soda" which is usually caffeinated, and "energy drinks" which are highly concentrated caffeine sources.

There are plenty of medical cases of caffeine overdoses from "energy drinks" and "workout supplements." Including a few deaths.

bh2's picture

More or fewer deaths than from, say, crack cocaine? And snort?

People should be allowed to consume whatever they like once they are informed of the consequences.

Darwin will reliably sort them out at lowest possible cost to the taxpayer.

quartshort's picture

"People should be allowed to consume whatever they like once they are informed of the consequences."

I agree... if they use their OWN DAMN MONEY! I was raised a gutter rat. No way back then you could (legally) buy this shit using food stamps. Now you have Shanaynay climbing into the drive thru window cause her card won't cover mcnuggets at da end uf da monf.


cheka's picture

disgusting that nyc.dc steals money from working people to give food welfare to fat azzez

thecondor's picture

T-Bone steak, cheese, eggs and Welch's Grape.

Not Goldman Sachs's picture

We had this argument in local paper recently. Steak and lobsters are also on the menu.

Reginald Blome's picture

"Conversate for a few, cuz we gon do what we came to do, ain't dat right, boo, true?"

RIP Biggie

I'll take the downvotes, I'm a fan, I admit it!

thecondor's picture

I was betting there'd be at least one person on here who would pick up on that lol. Be rapper in history. Good day to you sir.

SweetDougisaTwat's picture

They call it "Purple" drank, not Grape.  Purple draaaaank.

Mat Cauthon's picture

Robitusson and Red Bull I believe.

Hope Copy's picture

That 's something that comes to mind about every week.. and the creation of the 'BUM BAR' [A.K.A] Soylent Green.

balolalo's picture

STARTLING REPORT...  most americans spend their mony on junk, waste, and mindlessness.

EBT users are just following the rest of AMERICA'S lead. 

Calmyourself's picture

NEWS FLASH:  I do not work eveyday to provide for "most Americans"  EBT users take directly from me and mine, thus it is of concern as is the longevity of the support.

Grosvenor Pkwy's picture

Watermelon is a healthy food. I eat melon almost every day.

AZLagun's picture

I believe that is now catagorized under "traditional Mexican food".  

Not to be a d*ck but I have visited El Super by my house and just about all the kids there are about 40lbs. over weight.  I doubt I would be too far off to assume the parents are borderline diabetic. On one particular trip the family in front of me could have been the "poster child" for this article.  The sheeer amount of crap they were purchasing with their food stamp card was shocking.  I was pretty angry by the time I got home. Is it too far fetched of an idea to that perhaps we should limit purchases to healthy/essential items only? 

As one commentator noted above, we (taxpayer) are also subsidizing their healthcare.

Happy Turkey day fellow ZH'ers!  

Vatican_cameo's picture


I'm thinking "Long" on Orange Soda.

Déjà view's picture


Should only be allowed to purchase food near expiration date...too much food is discarded!

Once ask an elderly gentleman (greatest generation), with a very nice late model vehicle, if he required assistance...seemed to be looking for a lost item in a dumpster from a grocery store...peering inside, amazing amount of packaged donuts/danish etc. Discarded...

Beyond a SNAPPERS dignity...

tmosley's picture

Most such food goes to the food bank. Less waste in the system than you would think. Most of what is thrown away comes at the consumer level, or when low level managers get greedy/lazy and fail to get their write off from said donation.

quartshort's picture

Many of the stores in my area pour bleach over the food they throw out. Keeps the "divers" at bay.

ebworthen's picture

"We accept EBT" on the entrance to every fast food joint in the Intermountain West.

The destruction of the family and the ability for self-sustainment continues apace.

Rats in the maze, serfs dependent upon the "Lord and Church".

Lather, rinse, repeat.

tmosley's picture

In Texas, you aren't allowed to buy hot meals with EBT. Some clever people got around this by selling uncooked, freshly prepared pizzas (which are top notch), along with other uncooked things, and a tiny bit of milk and produce to pass the requirements for EBT acceptance.

Despite the fact that they take EBT, I don't usually see much trash in there.

Mr. Pain's picture



If so, I need to get out of the dough onto the loaf!

GCT's picture

No Mr. Pain they do not but, The government does issue pet food stamps, I shit you not.  All started under this administration.  Of course you musrt order the pet food online.

They order the pet food and then sell this for beer money!  There is always a walk around Mr. Pain.  Working in the projects for over 19 years they also sell food feed their kid Kraft mac n cheese and sell the good food to their drug dealers or friend so they have beer and cigarette money!

Paul E. Math's picture

"the study was conducted by IMPAQ international and analyzed the sales of a single national retail chain back in 2011. "

greenskeeper carl's picture

Ya, that was a long time ago. If you go by past experience with government programs, that's means it's only gotten worse since then.

Let me preface this statement with my opinion that this program should not exist in the first place, but...

They should only be allowed to buy staples with that money. Chicken and pork(no more filets or crab legs, yes I've seen it right in front of me). Broccoli, other veggies, a bag of potatoes, bags of rice, beans, etc. the list of acceptable items for purchase should be about 15. Only beverages should be milk and fruit juice(not drank). If you don't like it, get a fucking job.

effendi's picture

Make it any fresh fruit or vegetables (I doubt many on SNAP will be buying organic artichokes or similar luxuries so just keep it simple). Bags of rice, flour, dried beans, milk, cheese and eggs. No meat at all as meat is a luxury that we workers can't afford to buy every day (I eat  steak maybe once a month and I love steak) and the beans, eggs etc will cover the protein requirements. It is a supplement to their diet anyways and yes if they don't like it then tough shit.

tmosley's picture

In Texas, you get food stamps for one year without working. After that, you have to get a job working for at least 20 hours a week, or volunteer for the same amount of time.

Most people get around this by getting onto disability and having a fuck ton of children.

Much better to just abolish it. Replace it with a tiny UBI that only goes to adults--enough to buy food for a small family. UBIs don't carry the extreme perverse incentives that food stamps do.

whip_sawed's picture

Agree. It is congress (both D and R) that passed SNAP law. 

The Farm Bill of 2008 changed food stamps to SNAP(Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program).

·         Only Congress has the power to change the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)….

·         Congress do not approve these foods:

SNAP Recipients may NOT purchase:

Vitamins and medicines

Ready-to-eat foods and

Hot foods (e.g rotisserie chicken

But:   Congress approves these  junk foods:

soft drinks, candy, cookies, snack crackers, ice cream



Grosvenor Pkwy's picture

Soda, candy, snack crackers, chips, ice cream =

Salt, caffeine, concentrated refined sugars and fats.

BetterRalph's picture

I see You two have been working on my puzzle.

I had a heart attack, so I could learn these secrets.

allow me to add just a couple scatterbrainstormtrooper pieces missing for the casual observer. They get heavy on the opinion "as I see's it."

Surgery + Welfare Costs +the logic loops of infrastructure. (generating the patient by poor diet, then profiting off the bad health)

Big Media Fascism. PREPAID Bad Message, uninformed/deceived public.

Local, State, Fed Government. Misguided Politically/Financially.
MAKE Fort Leavenworth GREAT AGAIN!

The Food Pyramid Fraud continuing damage. political/needs backlash Replacement like the PALEO Pyramid (just saying feel free to make another) Ultimately we shouldn't NEED a political propaganda art piece to prove truth about HEalth, but I can embrace a De-Programming version of the food pyramid, a PALEO pyramid in the SHORT term to get people off the old ways and dropping 60+

Actual Nutrition Education. Media / gov

Actual Drug Facts and INFORMED CONSENT

supplements VS drugs, when you should go to a doctor! When you should disregard what a doctor says! (education)

Fat ass Fine and Ten Year Prison for hospitals that hid prices preventing you to shop around (re: ticker-guy)

Monsanto/Glycophosphate - we know the stuff is bad, why's it still here? in our meat now!

Vaccines - who/cdc (yea I lump em) trans national fraud. If your healthy you don't get sick, this is about control by people who have complete contempt for our rule of law.

Alcohol, and Opium based sub places in hell propagated from these behaviors vs Cannabis + diet + nutrients + remove the forward gaze posture that EVERYONE HAS.

Smoking, Combusting vs Vaping (problem reaction solution, media lies/gov over regulates a crackdown based on politics, education missing 100%)

political DSM (false science) used as a Weapon to remove Second Amendment and other rights.

36 agency Data share (cut the cord! you don't need to know I scraped my knee, and broke my arm, get a warrant)

Administrative Security Fail/National Security Fail
The big ass DATA BREECHES OPM VA Blushield bohica pull your pants up already, whos next Kaiser, how about Humana?! OR CAN the migrants/transnational terrorists exploit this data with outside/inside help? Why not some in Ft Leavenworth yesterday?

a few more pieces to go for my puzzle.
I don't expect to win any prize.

LasVegasDave's picture

I started to read your post, but quit and decided just to downvote you for unreadability.

CNONC's picture

Rhetorical device.  They are puzzle peices, not yet put together.  Probably too non-linear for ZH types, me included.  WB7 might appreciate it though.

SixIsNinE's picture

i thought it was cool man, outtasight even ...
that's just me being the good ol' Beatle Jimi Hendrix that I am :)

ali-ali-al-qomfri's picture

perhaps EMF (phones/towers/routers) would be a piece to your puzzle,

as in harmful to bee's, can't pollinate, causing hive collapse,

also the physical effects on the body.