Maine Governor Supports Bipartisan Bill To Ban Using Food Stamps For Junk Food

Both Republicans and Democrats in the Maine legislature, as well as Gov. Paul LePage, want to prohibit recipients of food stamps from using them to buy junk food, the Huffington Post reports. The bipartisan bill would ban use of benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by Maine residents from being spent on candy and soda.

“Multiple Red Bulls in one purchase, Rock Star energy drinks, 1-pound bag of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and 3 gallons of Hershey’s Ice Cream in one purchase,” Bethany Hamm, an official with the state Department of Health and Human Services, said during a hearing on Thursday, MPBN News reported, “We have all seen these types of purchases occur — and it’s unacceptable,” Hamm said.

While federal law for the SNAP benefits prohibits such a change in the program, the legislation proposed by Maine State Senator Roger Katz also seeks a waiver from the federal government to allow such changes in the SNAP rules for Maine residents.

“The USDA is loath to allow candy crackdowns. In 2004, the department denied a Minnesota request to ban sweets and sugary drinks, according to a USDA spokeswoman. In 2011, the department rejected a request from New York City to stamp out soda. The following year, Mississippi withdrew its own request to ban soda and candy,” the Huffington Post reported.

The bill in the Maine legislature to prohibit spending of SNAP benefits on junk food is gaining support from legislators in both parties, perhaps because of public pressure from voters to reform welfare programs and stop use of them that is perceived to be abuse of the programs by some recipients of the benefits.

“Democratic lawmakers may be feeling some pressure to take a harder line against welfare fraud after an election cycle that saw Republicans advance in the House and Senate after campaigning on welfare reform,” the Bangor Daily News reported about the bill to stop food stamps from being spent on junk food, “One Democratic leader has signed on to welfare reform bills, and Republicans have renewed efforts to make it easier to deny benefits to Mainers who don’t play by the rules.”

The Daily News reports that Democratic House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe has signed on as a co-sponsor of Sen. Katz’s proposed legislation.

Showing how much of a challenge it is to buy food on a food stamps budget without purchasing junk food, actress Gwyneth Paltrow failed such a “food stamps challenge,” the Inquisitr reported last week.

“Gwyneth Paltrow had accepted the challenge to live on the food budget of the average person on food stamps, and after four days could not continue it, the Washington Post reported. The challenge was to live on the $29 per week that is the amount the average recipient of food stamps receives per week,” the Inquisitr reported.

[Photo of Gov. Paul LePage from the Huffington Post.]