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Florida bill to prohibit “junk” SNAP food purchases passes committee

6 commentsBy Caroline Scott-Thomas , 01-Feb-2012

A Florida State Senate Committee has passed a bill intended to restrict purchases of certain foods under nutrition assistance programs, such as Food Stamps, or SNAP (Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program).

Senator Ronda Storms (R-Valrico) introduced the bill to restrict spending on less healthy foods and beverages, at a time when the state is making cuts in other areas, she said.

One in seven, or 48m, Americans currently receive food stamps, and the number of Americans who benefit through the program has grown rapidly as the economy has struggled. The use of food stamps is already prohibited for some grocery store items, such as alcohol, nutritional supplements and prepared foods.

“These dollars are intended to help struggling families, and in most cases, funds are being used appropriately,” she said. “But there is no excuse for misusing assistance dollars, and we have to make changes to the law to ensure this does not continue.”

In particular, the bill requires that the Department of Children and Family Services, which oversees the SNAP program, should add “non-staple, unhealthy foods” to the list of items that may not be purchased with its funds.

The bill states: “Such prohibited items include, but are not limited to, foods containing trans fats; sweetened beverages, including sodas; sweets, such as jello, candy, ice cream, pudding, popsicles, muffins, sweet rolls, cakes, cupcakes, pies, cobblers, pastries, and doughnuts; and salty snack foods, such as corn-based salty snacks, pretzels, party mix, popcorn, and potato chips.”

The bill, SB 1658, would also prohibit use of food stamps at restaurants, including fast food chains.

“Most individuals using public assistance dollars are using the funds to get by and to provide for their families. However, we should do what we can to prevent dollars intended to help Florida’s poorest families from being spent in the wrong places,” Storms said.

Storms wrote to members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction last November requesting that they prevent foods generally considered to be “junk food” to be bought with SNAP program dollars.

“I believe we must work at all levels of government to reduce the gross amount of wasteful spending that has plagued our nation and prevents us from achieving a full economic recovery,” said Senator Storms at that time. “I would like to see the committee provide greater oversight of public assistance programs, save taxpayer money, and add the accountability that Americans want and so desperately need.”

She said she would like to see measures taken at both a federal and a state level to ensure foods with a low nutritional value were disallowed under publicly funded programs.

A similar proposal to prohibit purchases of sugar-sweetened drinks with food stamps in New York City – for an initial two-year trial period – was rejected by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) last August.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said that the proposal would be too complex to implement and questioned its viability and effectiveness.

6 comments (Comments are now closed)

why am i providing the "goodies" in stead of the parents?

correct we all deserve treats but when your parents can afford the family treats then you will recieve them. everyone says its not fair to regulate what people eat and that is correct but not if your expecting others to provide it. this country has lost sight of what necessities really are. these people should only get items needed to stay alive no extras... that is unless the parents are gonna get out and equally earn those extras. i work 2 jobs both for the state and cant afford to buy my kids all the extras but yet my tax dollars are paying to buy others extras. yeah sounds real fair to me.

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Posted by britt
07 February 2012 | 22h24

Who is suffering?

Speaking as a former kid who had to "eat all her growing food" before being allowed snacks or dessert, I wonder why the fuss about making sure that kids have jello and ice cream when the parents supposedly can't afford fruit, vegetables and legumes to feed their children? One doesn't need to live next to a farmer's market to purchase a banana instead of a popsicle for self or offspring to snack on.
Yes, we all need and deserve a treat now and then. And what we all need much more is "growing food". If someone is receiving public largesse,they are obliged to spend it wisely, and that means buying "growing foods" first, even for adults. If there is leftover because the "growing foods" are chosen wisely, that means the level of support can be lowered because there is more than enough to meet the basic needs for which the food assistance program is meant. If the recipient "needs" more, they can spend their own earned income on it. I work and wish I could afford every type of food I desire. Please stop forcing taxes from me so that others may spend foolishly while I'm buying myself the healthy stuff.

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Posted by Jennifer Christiano
07 February 2012 | 21h15

Who does suffer more?

Well said, Angelo! Too much government trying to save us from ourselves. And the farmers' market is quite a drive from where I live, as well.

Ms. Hemmelgarn, do you not partake of a snack here and there? I'm not suggesting anyone live on snacks, but there is nothing wrong with a bag of Doritos (in moderation). Last time I checked, chocolate is considered a junk food...you don't dare have a guilty indulgence in a piece of cake?

How are the liberals going to defend this when the children are emotionally scarred because they are made fun of without a Twinkie? Ban all junk food? We can't have anyone with low self-esteem in our politically-correct society, remember?

And everybody's a winner, here's your trophy, even if you lost....

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Posted by M
07 February 2012 | 16h14

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