Food Stamps Reform: SNAP Soda Pop And Junk Food Ban Pushed By GOP Lawmakers

Republicans are urging President Donald Trump to get on board for some food stamps reform and restrictions to the SNAP — Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. If the GOP leaders succeed in their quest, no longer will soda pop and junk food be eligible purchases on the taxpayer-funded program.

Republican Maine Governor Paul LePage and his GOP peers in multiple other states are hoping President Trump will be far more agreeable to cost-saving and nutrition-enhancing changes to the food stamps program than the former president.

A review of how food stamps are spent was recently conducted by a leading American grocery store chain and released by the USDA. The study stretched back to 2011. The report revealed approximately 20 cents of every SNAP dollar was spent on desserts, candy, sugar, salty snacks, and sweet beverages. The same investigation also found about 5 cents per dollar spent through the food stamps program was used to buy pop.

Six years ago, former President Barack Obama rejected a plan to restrict soda pop, junk food, and similar non-substantive items from the SNAP food stamps program. Obama claimed there would be no viable way to evaluate if the proposal put forth by Governor LePage or then NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg would actually alter the amount of junk food and pop purchased.

LePage remains optimistic his revamped proposal will be met with acceptance by the Trump administration. The Maine Governor maintains his food stamps plan is a wholly common sense approach to reducing diabetes and high rates of obesity. Many supporters of the plan also feel it will help keep children well-fed by forcing the taxpayer funds, which back the SNAP cards, to be spent on meal items instead of candy, pop, and junk food.

President Trump’s current budget plan doesn’t include any changes to the food stamp program. But his pick for the agriculture secretary position, Sonny Perdue, seems receptive to SNAP program reform, MSN reports. The federal government spends about $71 billion annually on the food stamps program, which currently gives assistance to 44 million people.

GOP lawmakers in both Arkansas and Tennessee are vocal supporters of the proposed food stamps reforms, the Denver Post notes.

“We don’t allow people to buy alcohol and cigarettes with welfare dollars,” Tennessee Representative Sheila Butt, who wants the president to allow states more power in running the program, said. “Why should we allow people to buy junk food that leads to just as many health problems?”

During the summer of 2016, Governor LePage threatened to end the administration of the food stamp program in his state after the USDA questioned his proposed program ban on soda pop and junk food. The revamped plan put forth by the Maine Governor would divert taxpayer funds currently used by the federal government on nutrition education programs, about $4.3 million, and instead use the money to for food banks, schools, and community organizations which distribute healthy food to those in need.

Cumberland County Food Security Council Executive Director Jim Hanna does not appear to want the governor’s plan to succeed. He claims low-income residents already have enough problems to deal with and shouldn’t be told what to eat or drink. He feels a tax on candy and soda is a better way to deter the consumption of junk food.

“It seems very contradictory to, on the one hand, limit people’s access to foods that have negative nutrition content and then to limit access to information to support them to make better choices about nutrition,” Hanna continued.

Supporters of food stamps reform have been quick to point out no one is attempting to tell poor people what they can eat, drink, or buy, but simply refuse to allow taxpayer money be used for purchases of frivolous items which are not going to prevent either adults or children from living without hunger.

The USDA will soon be mandating any store which accepts food stamps to stock their shelves with more fruits, vegetables, and other healthy food. SNAP debit card machines will also soon be provided to farmers markets, and “bonus dollars” given for food stamps purchases made at the markets.

Do you think taxpayers should be providing funds which can be used to buy pop and junk food?

[Featured Image by Jonathan Weiss/Shutterstock]