Posted September 18, 2013
Representative Phil Roe (R-TN) introduced a bill that would ban the use of Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, commonly referred to as food stamps, for junk food, according to a Yahoo News article, available here.
The Healthy Food Choices Act, H.R. 3073, would require that SNAP benefits be used to only purchase healthy foods which are eligible under the Child Nutrition Act of 1966, commonly known as the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program. The text of the bill is available here.
The bill responds to a 2012 study which found that “food stamps enable about $2 billion worth of junk food purchases each year, and that more than half of the beverages bought using SNAP benefits are sugary drinks” according to an article by The Hill, available here.
The WIC program has strict guidelines and are “made up of several different standards for products like breakfast cereal, milk, vegetables, peanut butter and other food.” For example, breakfast cereal must contain certain levels of iron, cannot contain more than 21.2 grams of sugar per 100 grams of cereal, and must have whole grain as a primary ingredient.
Roe stated, “As a physician, I realize the importance of healthy eating, and as an obstetrician, I’ve seen how the WIC program helps empower families receiving assistance to use taxpayer dollars to purchase healthy wholesome foods. If these guidelines are good and healthy enough for women and children, then SNAP recipients should also benefit from adhering to the same standards.” The press release from Rep. Roe’s office is available here.
Think Progress reports that anti-hunger advocates oppose the legislation for many reasons including that SNAP benefits, while intended to be “supplemental” often “provides low-income families’ entire monthly food budgets” and they can “typically make them stretch farther when they opt for lower quality groceries.” The Think Progress article is available here. These groups advocate for a “more effective policy” like the Healthy Incentives Program (HIP) which “gives SNAP recipients a discount on healthier options – for every dollar they spend on healthy food, they earn 30 cents back to spend on other SNAP-eligible items.”