New Mexico Proposes Stricter Food Stamp Guidelines


Lawmakers in New Mexico are considering a measure to restrict food stamp usage in the state. If passed, those who use food stamps in the state would be banned from spending their benefits on junk food.

The bill, filed by state Sen. Cliff Pirtle, a Republican representing Roswell, would restrict beneficiaries of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to the foods available for beneficiaries of the Women, Infants and Children program, notes the Santa Fe New Mexican.

The bill was proposed in mid-December, around the same time neighboring Texas proposed subjecting those applying for benefits under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program to drug testing.

“Republicans have always said if you can afford drugs like marijuana or cocaine or methamphetamine, you should be able to afford to help your family with things like food, rent utilities and basic needs,” Marissa Evans, who works for the Texas Tribune, told the Texas Standard. “You shouldn’t need to come to the federal government for a handout.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees both SNAP and WIC programs, lists allowable food purchases under SNAP to “any food or food product for home consumption and also includes seeds and plants which produce food for consumption.” This includes junk foods such as candy and soda.

“Since the current definition of food is a specific part of [federal law], any change to this definition would require action,” the USDA adds. “Several times in the history of SNAP, Congress had considered placing limits on the types of food that could be purchased with program benefits. However, they concluded that designating foods as luxury or non-nutritious would be administratively costly and burdensome.”

Under Pirtle’s proposed bill, SNAP recipients would be limited to a much stricter set of guidelines under the WIC program. For example, they cannot be used to buy juices unless there is at least 100 percent of daily vitamin C in a serving.

The bill perpetuates “this unfounded myth that families need to be told what to eat,” said Sovereign Hager, an attorney with the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. He added that WIC’s food guidelines were designed as “a supplement to families already getting food stamps, which is why it’s targeted at certain foods ... You’d have a very hard time cooking a whole meal for your family with just those foods.” 

Sources: Santa Fe New Mexican, Texas Standard, USDA / Photo credit: Franco Folini/Flickr

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