Created to combat obesity, the Louisville’s Food Policy Advisory Council will hold its second meeting Tuesday where it will it discuss a proposal by Yum Brands to authorize certain food stamp recipients to use their vouchers at fast food restaurants.
Local food advocates have criticized the Louisville-based company for lobbying state government to allow the disabled, elderly and homeless to use their vouchers at their restaurant,
The 25-member panel was appointed by Mayor Greg Fischer to propose innovative solutions to create a vibrant food system, but has yet to release a statement in regards to the plan though many members have begun to raise their concerns.
Policy member James Neumann, who co-owns ValuMarket, says Yum’s idea would go against local efforts to bring healthier foods to impoverished neighborhoods known as food deserts.
“Albeit there are some items on Yum Brand menus that are nutritious, I would say the lion share of what the consumer buys in there is probably not in that category,” he says.
“I think the best meals and the best spend per dollar to feed people are going to come off buying ingredients and being able to assemble meals at home. You’re certainly going to get a better nutrition value out of it and be able to feed more people at a better cost.”
While the health department and food council have been reticent on the issue, food justice groups have publicly criticized the proposal. In a letter addressed to Gov. Steve Beshear, leaders with the Community Farm Alliance asked him to reject the company’s lobbying efforts.
Supporters of Yum’s plan have said it provides people on public assistance with more choices and gives people who can’t prepare their own food access to hot cooked meals. Currently, only Michigan, Arizona and parts of California permit the use of food stamps at fast food restaurants.
“I can’t see where it’s going to help if it’s going to open up more access to less than desirable nutritional offerings,” says Neumann.
The panel is also expected to approve its by-laws, elect officers and outline an agenda to tackle issues surrounding the lack of food accessibility. It is expected to draft a mission statement and make a number recommendations to city leaders before the end of the year.