On its face, it sounds like the sort of thing First Lady Michelle Obama would be happy to get on board with. The Hill notes that Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) has proposed legislation that would require that people receiving aid under government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — meaning food stamps — limit their purchases to “healthy food.”
Roe’s bill, The Healthy Food Choices Act, H.R. 3073, is based on a 2012 study that found that approximately $2 billion worth of junk food purchases are made each year using food stamps, and that more than half of all SNAP benefits are used to buy sugary drinks.
In defense of his bill, the Congressman said:
States like Wisconsin and South Carolina have shown interest in improving the healthfulness of choices in their SNAP programs. By giving SNAP recipients more nutritious choices, we can take a meaningful step towards ending hunger in America.
Under H.R. 3073, foods purchased under SNAP would have to meet the same guidelines as food bought under the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program. The WIC guidelines, which are strict, set standards for breakfast cereal, milk, vegetables, and peanut butter, among other foods. Cereals, for example, must meet minimum levels of iron, cannot contain more than 21.2 grams of sugar per 100 grams of cereal, and must have whole grain listed among the primary ingredients.
Roe, who is an obstetrician, said:
I realize the importance of healthy eating, and … 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 bill is expected to meet resistance from Democrats who will cite the notion of food deserts as a stumbling block, along with statements from anti-hunger groups who oppose smart counseling on food choices even to Americans on the government dole.