Monday, August 03, 2015

'You Can't Buy that with Food Stamps..."

"Maine lawmakers debated banning soda from being bought with SNAP in 2009, though the legislation went nowhere. In 2010, then-Mayor Mike Bloomberg (I) requested a similar waiver for New York City, and was denied. Junk food bans passed a committee vote in Texas in 2011 but died on the floor. Iowa and California lawmakers introduced similar rules that year. Bans were introduced in eight separate states in 2012, with Florida defeating a proposal that had cleared the committee stage and Mississippi deciding at the last minute to revoke its waiver request. Maine, Wisconsin, Texas, South Carolina, and Delaware all toyed with the idea in 2013 and 2014. And this spring, the bans are on the march again in Wisconsin and Maine."  from an article in the Think Progress website
The federal government has given states some latitude on setting rules to implement the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Some states like New Mexico want to use this supposed authority to impose work requirements beyond those already included in the federal SNAP regulations. to the detriment of those who receive benefits.

Another way for states to attempt to regulate SNAP benefits is by designating what types of food are eligible for food stamps. Many states have found that this is a messy and often unworkable process, since it is difficult to determine what types of items to tax and which should be exempt. Think Progress addresses this issue in a very interesting piece published back in May of this year. The article, entitled "How The Conservative Obsession With Policing Poor People’s Shopping Carts Got Started," explores efforts around the country to implement rules that would require recipients of benefits not to buy junk food.  Here is the full article.

Yes, it's important that we all eat more fruits and vegetables and fewer sugar-based carbohydrates.  This is difficult for people in all walks of life.  All of us are are subject to a barrage of advertisements promoting the virtues of consuming soda, candy bars and other items.
Double-Up Food Bucks booth at Railyard Market Albuquerque
There other important ways to promote better shopping habits without directly regulating the content of shopping carts of beneficiaries. Two important ways are  nutrition education and allowing the use of SNAP for purchases at community growers markets. The USDA promotes nutrition education  via its SNAP-Ed Connection program.

Additionally, food stamps recipients around the country, including New Mexico, can swipe their electronic benefits transfer ( EBT) cards at farmers’ markets and get twice as much to spend in market-only voucher tokens, thanks to a $100 million program tucked into the 2014 Farm Bill.

And the myth that the majority of SNAP recipients use their benefits to purchase unhealthy foods is untrue. "The poor spend nearly double the share that the rich spend on food they cook at home, while the rich spend more on eating out," said Think Progress, citing a study conducted by The Atlantic magazine.

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