Some lawmakers are weighing whether restrictions should be placed on food stamps to keep recipients from using them to purchase candy, soda, and other sugary products after a USDA report documented just how much is spent on unhealthy foods.
While most food stamp money was spent in the category of “meat, poultry and seafood,” the report found that recipients spent millions more on soda, or sweetened beverages, than vegetables, the second and third highest categories purchased, respectively.
When grouped together, more money was spent on unhealthy food than healthy foods:
SNAP recipients spent more money — more than $1.9 billion total — on sweetened beverages, frozen prepared foods, desserts, high-fat dairy, and salty snacks than they did on fruits, vegetables, milk, bread, and crackers, which totaled nearly $1.4 billion.
According to the report, about 20% of food stamps were spent on the categories of sweetened beverages, desserts, salty snacks, candy and sugar.
But some found the suggestion of restricting these unhealthy foods from food stamp recipients distasteful in itself.
“Food surveillance violates the basic principles of this great country,” said Rep. David Scott of Georgia. “You can’t deny them their freedoms to be able to make choices without violating their pursuit of happiness.”
Maine is one of the states asking for the ban, with Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew noting the higher rates of obesity and the $700 million of obesity-related medical expenditures in the state.