Last week I wrote that it is perfectly legal to buy junk food with SNAP benefits. It is perfectly legal for someone with SNAP benefits to plop 2 liters of coke, some cookies and chips down on the counter and purchase them. There is something wrong with that picture however, as SNAP stands for supplemental nutrition assistance program. A key word in that acronym is nutrition and that is something that is missing in a lot of the eligible food. So why don’t we place some restrictions on what a person enrolled in SNAP can buy? Well it has been tried and tried again, but still tighter restrictions can’t be placed on it.
For example, nine states have tried to place restrictions on what a SNAP enrollee can buy, but none of them made it through the legislative process. All of these attempts to pass SNAP improvement Bills were common sense, so to say. The state of Texas tried to “seek a waiver from the USDA to restrict the purchase of food items with minimal nutritional value.” Texas’s goal was to amend the list so it would better align with allowable foods under the WIC school lunch program. That is not an unreasonable suggestion to make, since both of these programs offer nutritious food.
Florida also attempted to improve SNAP by prohibiting “foods containing trans fats; sweetened beverages, including sodas; sweets, such as jello, candy, ice cream, pudding, popsicles, muffins, sweet rolls, cakes, cupcakes, pies, cobblers, pastries, and doughnuts; and salty snack foods, such as corn-based salty snacks, pretzels, party mix, popcorn, and potato chips.” The list that Florida created is not unreasonable, as none of these foods have any nutritional value to them.
In fact, both Texas and Florida’s attempts strike me as a common sense approach. Both of these states and along with the other seven that tried to improve SNAP were not being unfair, they were only trying to improve a system that needs fixing. One would assume that if someone off the street was asked if they would be in favor of banning the purchasing of junk food with SNAP benefits, most would be in favor of it. So why did none of these nine attempts pass? That is a simple answer, corruption and abuse.
Why has mass improvements to SNAP been implemented? Well, there are lobbyists sitting on the sideline with their wallet’s open, saying no. In the Florida case, state senator Ronda Storms proposed the improvement to SNAP, but she was met with stiff resistance. As Storms says, her fiercest opponents “were Coca-Cola, the soda companies, the chip companies...