A legislator in New York has introduced a bill which would curtail the use of food stamps for items such as steak, lobster, and candy bars.
Republican Sen. Patty Ritchie introduced the bill on Feb. 17 that would block beneficiaries of the state's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) from using their benefits to purchase foods that are either high-end or not nutritious, WKYC reports.
Among the items on the list are lobster, certain cuts of steak, decorated cakes and energy drinks.
The bill's memo reads: "At a time when our state and nation are struggling with an obesity epidemic, it is critically important that taxpayer-funded programs help low-income consumers make wise and healthy food choices."
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Support and opposition to such measures typically falls along party lines, with Republican lawmakers in the state generally supportive of the measures while the Democrats have typically opposed them. Similar bills have been proposed in Maine, Wisconsin and in the U.S. Congress, the Huffington Post reports.
One key problem in making sure the proposed legislation will have the intended effect is that across the United States, 'junk food' is typically more accessible -- and often cheaper -- than nutritious alternatives. But the federal government is starting to take a hard look at this phenomenon and is beginning to act on it.
The Obama administration released an announcement during the week of Feb. 14 which will compel certain stores to carry healthier food options if they want to continue to be able to accept SNAP benefits, according to the Post. Convenience store owners have lobbied against the proposal and have argued that people with low incomes will suffer if stores are kicked off the SNAP program for failing to stock healthy food.
The SNAP program is overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which disputes convenience store owners' complaints.
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"If you’re receiving billions of dollars as an industry in taxpayer funds, it’s only just that there is an expectation that there is an adequate supply of a variety of foods, period," said Kevin Concannon of the USDA during an interview with Politico.
Ritchie's bill is ultimately unlikely to be adopted in New York, as the State Assembly is controlled by the Democrats.