An Arkansas State Representative is looking to ban the purchase of all junk food with food stamps.
Republican State Representative Mary Bentley wants to put an end to junk food currently being purchased under the state’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The bill asking for the ban has been pre-filed by Bentley with the state.
The pre-filed bill had to be vague on what junk food is, because in order to restrict the food options SNAP recipients are allowed to buy, they would need to seek approval from the United State Department of Agriculture before implementing the proposed changes.
Rep. Bentley said, “We can have a little bit of common sense and say we all know what junk food is. It’s not brain surgery.”
Bentley said she believes the list of restricted junk food items would consist of things like candy bars, soda, and chips. Bentley also states the bill could curtail the obesity problem.
Charlie Spakes, president of the Arkansas Grocers and Retail Merchants Association, said of the USDA, “They’ve never granted this sort of waiver to a state before.”
Spakes acknowledges the bill’s good intentions but feels it would be hard to enforce.
Spakes said between 15,000 – 20,000 new food items hit shelves every year in the United States. The problem is that the enforcement of the bill would fall on the supermarkets and food retailers. They would have to look at the nutritional value of each product and enter it manually into store point-of-sale systems.”
Rep. Bentley, who as a small business owner deals with thousands of UPC labels herself, said “the “bar code dilemma” is a weak excuse for something she believes will help drive down the state’s obesity rate.”
More than 40 percent of SNAP funding is buying things like bread, milk, meat, fruits and vegetables – however nearly 20 percent of food stamps went to sodas and salty snacks.
Currently there is still a ban on SNAP users from purchasing alcohol, tobacco or any non-food products including things like pet food.
If USDA officials were to grant the state a waiver to have junk food restrictions, the legislation would have to attain a clear definition and a list of what junk food is from the Department of Human Services.
— Robin Lundstrum (@RobinLundstrum) September 1, 2016
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