Does junk food classify as food? Well, most Americans certainly think so, but some state health officials claim that it doesn’t. Now the states of Arkansas, Tennessee and Maine have introduced a law that will prevent people from using food stamps to buy junk food and it looks like the law has a darn good chance of passing. The reason for this law is because health officials claim that they wind up spending hundreds of millions of dollars on obesity related health care costs every year and that number has continued to rise astronomically. But the question remains, is the law fair and will Americans support it?Now Maine has made the headlines for trying to control what items a person can buy by using food stamps given to them by the state.
She claims that the state of Maine is facing an obesity epidemic. So naturally, regulating the way people use public assistance to buy food is essential to fighting the battle of the bulge and lowering health costs.
Whereas people who aren’t on food stamps will only spend 4 percent of their own budget on soft drinks, candies, and chips.
But that’s no comfort to liberals and citizens who are ticked off to this ban on specific foods being purchased. In fact, they feel that one’s diet shouldn’t be controlled because it’s a personal decision.
One person sarcastically suggested that “perhaps a penalty tax for everyone who is 25 points overweight could also be introduced”. The bottom line most people made was that the government has no right to remove freedom from its people. “Why politicians think they have to legislate what poor people eat is beyond me. Just goes to show you the level of empathy of some of our elected officials.”- Trevor Moore
As these programs are either controlled, limited or removed at state levels across the country, many people see this as a declaration of war on America’s poorest and youngest citizens.
The legislation would require the Arkansas Department of Human Services to develop nutritional guidelines that would bar recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program from buy products that don’t meet certain guidelines.
This is a huge change that most other states have tried and failed to pass, because until now, the federal government didn’t allow the individual states to impose the restriction, but it seems that this is all about to change.
State Representative Sheila Butt introduced a bill in January that would ban shoppers from using public assistance dollars on junk food. She defended the bill by saying that “when you’re receiving taxpayer dollars, it’s not money that you’ve earned. So strings come along with that,” referring to the use of food stamps.
So these Tennessee lawmakers are counting on the Trump administration to allow them to enforce these new rules. But some are still skeptical that the law will pass.
She added that “I want the kids in our state to have sippy cups full of milk and juice, not Mountain Dew and Pepsi”. So as the sponsor of this new measure, she intends to see it through to the very end.
In fact, there are many who feel that politicians have no right to legislate what the poor eat. They certainly wouldn’t like it if a bill was passed that banned all companies from doing business in Maine, who has come under scrutiny for allegedly testing products on animals.
Some are unemployed, others are elderly, disabled or even working families who don’t earn enough. Recipients of SNAP get an EBT card that they can use at Target, Costco, Whole Foods, Wal-Mart and even the local corner stores. But it’s designed to raise the level of food in low-income homes.
In 200, a law temporarily increased the amount of benefits during the economic recession, but now it’s run out. So as of Nov 1st, 2017, an individual receiving $200 a month could see an $11 reduction. For a family of four, their $668 a month benefit would drop down to $632.
Hunger-relief programs like SNAP depend on the Farm Bill, which is the single largest source of federal funding for nutrition assistance programs. Without it, millions of struggling Americans could lose access to nutritious meals altogether.
The Food Basket, which has been coordinated by Katherine people like Kat Bumatay of East Hawaii and Duane Pajimola of West Hawaii, have tried to break the barriers that have prevented some on the island from claiming their benefits by reaching out to people at food pantries, meal sites, and community events. But it may be a matter of time before they’re affected as well.
Some of these reasons include stigma about requesting help. But most of the reasons are because of a lack of time, transportation, limited English, physical and cognitive impairment. Despite this, Kristin Frost Albrecht, the Food Basket’s outreach director, intends to help clients stretch their food budgets and reinforce the charitable food system.
So while the asset test introduced by the bill would also take into account a person’s household bank account, gambling income, cash, real estate, and personal property, but would exempt retirement income, one vehicle, and the household’s primary residence.
So families can use their SNAP benefits to purchase seeds or seedlings so they can grow their own plants in the summer time, thereby saving even more money to offset the cuts that the program may likely face in the near future.
On average, Americans on food stamps buy more than $600 million worth of unhealthy beverages alone, and hundreds of millions more on sugary snacks and junk food, and this pattern has legislators seeing red.
Michigan Republican representative Beau LaFave isn’t trying to be harsh, her “concern is chiefly with some people that are kind of abusing the system”. For now, however, buying soda with your Bridge Card is “a shame, but it’s not against the law.”
According to the Food And Nutrition Service, the federal agency responsible for running the SNAP program, soft drinks were the most popular “waste” of these federal assistance funds, and this may be why legislators are cracking down on the abuse.
Unfortunately, this was purchased by people who weren’t on food stamps. In fact, some recipients spent millions more on soft drinks versus milk, ground beef and even bagged snacks, and candy-packaged, which were also among the top purchase, but not as high as soft drinks.
But many would argue that the federal government will only fall in line with this new legislation if anti-hunger coalitions were to agree with the reason behind these restrictions, and according to Marion Nestle, a profession of nutrition at New York University, that’s not likely to happen.
It not only prevents recipients from wasting money, but it forces them to make better food choices that will help them and taxpayers in the long run. Unfortunately, it could come at the cost of stigmatizing the poor, who are already down on their luck.