A bill introduced in the Tennessee General Assembly that would ban food stamp users from buying junk food is dead. Rep. Shelia Butt (R-Columbia) pulled the legislation Tuesday citing possible action on the issue at the federal level.
The bill sought a waiver from the federal government to change the way people using Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) spend money on food. The bill looked to ban EBT card users in the state from buying "food that is high in calories, sugar, and fat ... without any nutritional value."
Butt said in a press release Monday she decided to pull the legislation after learning that no state had ever been granted a waiver.
“Essentially, then, I found out that it would literally take an ‘act of congress’ to make any changes to the SNAP program. Many states over the years have asked for a waiver to be able to make changes to the program and not one has ever been granted. That being the case, I have decided not to run the legislation at this time," Butt said.
She went onto say she hopes with a new administration more rights will be granted to the state.
The USDA told WBIR Congress has considered placing limits on the types of food that could be purchased with benefits, but found it would be nearly impossible to implement and costly.
In a summary report on the implications of restricting the use of food stamp benefits, the USDA said “no clear standards exists for defining foods as good or bad, or healthy or not healthy.”
The report also added with more than 300,000 food products on the market, the “task of identifying, evaluating, and tracking the nutritional profile of every food available for purchase would be substantial.” The report said there is “no strong research based evidence” to suggest “food stamp participation contributes to poor diet quality or obesity.”
The USDA report also indicates that “food stamp recipients are somewhat less likely to have adequate intakes of many key nutrients.”
Butt points out that in another recent USDA report soda is the number one product purchased with SNAP benefits. Another USDA report concluded recipients are no more likely to consume soft drinks than higher income people and are less likely to consume sweets and salty snacks.