Lawmakers in Republican-led states pushed legislation last week that would pre-approve what grocery items can and can’t be bought with food stamps.
The move – criticized by opponents who feel it to be too controlling over what people eat – was reportedly intended to curb scams within the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, as well as promote healthy eating by restricting the purchasing of junk food.
“It’s not meant to shame anyone or be punitive,” Wisconsin state Rep. Robert Brooks, who is pushing the bill, said. The proposed legislation follows a bill in Missouri that prohibited SNAP to be used for purchasing energy drinks, steak, seafood and other food items. The bill, which went through the state Assembly last week, would require a federal waiver in order to introduce such changes to the program. Chances of the waiver being granted, according to Fox News, are slim.
“It would make sense for the federal government to adopt new guidelines but they don’t,” Brooks said, adding that regardless of the bill’s success it’s still important to “drive the conversation.”
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“We’re saying at least two-thirds of the food should come from a list of nutritional items that the government has already said it recommends,” Brooks said of the proposed restrictions. “The other one-third can be spent on whatever else they want to.”
Taryn Rozenkranz, CEO of digital strategy company New Blue Interactive, said she feels as though the effort put into enacting such a measure could be better utilized elsewhere.
“I do think it’s a distraction and a waste of time for us to kind of try to home in on what’s in people’s grocery carts,” Rosenkranz said. “You are balancing a lot of things here… of which I am not sure we have all the answers to in order to try to legislate it and legislate what’s in people’s shopping carts.” Rosenkranz argued that lawmakers should spend more time dealing with the “war on poverty” and “really try to find ways to help the poor.”
“I would beg to differ,” Brooks said in response. “I have never seen the government give out money without strings attached. Other than from grandma at Christmas time, there are always strings attached.”
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