To that I always respond that I need food more than I need health care; why doesn't the government provide me food? If the government is going to provide my health care, can't it insist on what I should eat and how much exercise I should get? With no good rebuttal, they usually reply that "Bush lied, people died" or some other slogan right off the talking point sheet and walk away mumbling.
But seriously, why does government not provide food? I've written before about schools that don't allow food from home because parents can't be trusted to pack a "healthy" enough lunch for students, and we've had schools feeding both breakfast and lunch to students for years. You've got big cities banning certain types of food (foie gras) or food additives (trans fats), and we have entire categories of food derisively labeled "junk food". We have a First Lady who wants to push healthy eating on people, making comments that lead one to believe that she'd compel it if she could. At this point, we may as well be honest and just have government provide our food to us. There are more than a couple US states in which alcohol can be purchased only at state-run stores, so the precedent already exists.
So under this vision we'd have government-run supermarkets. The Wall Street Journal envisions what these markets would look like if they operated the same way as do public schools:
Suppose that groceries were supplied in the same way as K-12 education. Residents of each county would pay taxes on their properties. Nearly half of those tax revenues would then be spent by government officials to build and operate supermarkets. Each family would be assigned to a particular supermarket according to its home address. And each family would get its weekly allotment of groceries—"for free"—from its neighborhood public supermarket...
Being largely protected from consumer choice, almost all public supermarkets would be worse than private ones. In poor counties the quality of public supermarkets would be downright abysmal. Poor people—entitled in principle to excellent supermarkets—would in fact suffer unusually poor supermarket quality...
Responding to these failures, thoughtful souls would call for "supermarket choice" fueled by vouchers or tax credits. Those calls would be vigorously opposed by public-supermarket administrators and workers.
Opponents of supermarket choice would accuse its proponents of demonizing supermarket workers (who, after all, have no control over their customers' poor eating habits at home). Advocates of choice would also be accused of trying to deny ordinary families the food needed for survival. Such choice, it would be alleged, would drain precious resources from public supermarkets whose poor performance testifies to their overwhelming need for more public funds.
It's a well-written, entertaining article, well worth your time.