Limbaugh Falsely Claims Food Stamps Make Kids Fat

Rush Limbaugh attacked a federal program that keeps children from going hungry, arguing that food stamps are instead the cause of childhood obesity -- but studies find no link between the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP -- also called food stamps) and obesity in children. 

On the December 3 edition of his radio show, Limbaugh agreed that a Washington Times op-ed by James Bovard proved the theory that “more food stamps means fatter kids.” Limbaugh asserted that minority children were casualties of “Obama's obesity epidemic” because the “Democrat party has made everybody they can think they are victims” by giving them food stamps. 

But Limbaugh's claims are false. Bovard's op-ed never asserted that most childhood obesity occurs among minorities and Bovard mislead his readers about obesity studies to craft a false narrative that food stamp use is linked to childhood obesity. Bovard referenced a study by Baruch college professor Diane Gibson titled “Food Stamp Program Participation is Positively Related to Obesity in Low Income Women” which “estimated that participation in the food-stamp program for five years boosted the odds of young girls being overweight by 43 percent.” But Gibson pointed out that her research “did not control for food insecurity, and this omission potentially complicates the interpretation of the FSP [Food Stamp Program] participation variables.”                

Other reports found no links to SNAP participation and childhood obesity. A Food Research Action Center study explained that participation in federal food programs like SNAP actually “plays a critical role in obesity prevention both by improving dietary intake and reducing food insecurity” in children.  A study published in the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, found that "[a]fter adjusting for sociodemographic differences, SNAP participation was not associated with a higher rate of childhood obesity." The USDA found that food stamp use does not increase the “likelihood of being overweight” in children:

Results from reviewed studies indicate that for most participants in the Food Stamp Program--children, nonelderly men, and the elderly--use of food stamp benefits does not result in an increase in either Body Mass Index (BMI) or the likelihood of being overweight or obese.