Arkansas Lawmaker Plans to Ban Junk Food from Food Stamp Purchases

A shopper walks down an aisle in a newly opened Walmart Neighborhood Market in Chicago September 21, 2011. REUTERS/Jim Young

An Arkansas lawmaker is proposing a bill in the state’s legislature that would “ban people in the state from purchasing junk food with their food stamps.”

Rep. Mary Bentley (R-Perryville) filed House Bill 1035 in order to limit what people can buy with food stamps, Arkansas Online reported.

Although the proposal doesn’t specify what food would be included in the ban, Bentley said it would include soft drinks, candy bars, and chips.

“We want to encourage folks to get things that they can take home and make a meal for their families,” Rep. Bentley said to WMC.

“Some residents said lawmakers should not restrict what kind of food people can purchase with the food stamps,” reports WMC.

“I think they should not do that, because sometime [sic] you want a little snack every now and then,” Ellen Jones said. Others disagreed, saying that people need to buy food that’s healthy.

“If you got kids and you’re getting food stamps, that junk food is not going to hold them. They need some solid meats,” Priscilla Graves said.

The bill would leave it “up to the state Department of Human Services to specify what ‘junk food’ would not be allowed, using federal guidelines.”

Bentley said the bill would reduce the amount of taxpayer money spent on obesity-related care through Medicaid and Medicare.

Currently, “the state spends $1.25 billion tax dollars on obesity related care,” WMC reported.

The bill would have a long way to go before it goes into effect as a law.

The ban on certain foods for food stamp purchases “would require a waiver from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program,” reports Arkansas Online.

The bill will be up for consideration in the legislative session next year.

Other states such as Maine have proposed similar junk food bans in previous years, but none have been passed into law.


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