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Lawmakers introduce bill to stop food stamp recipients from buying junk foods and luxury meat

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(NaturalNews) If you've ever witnessed an EBT (food stamps) cardholder purchasing crates of sugar-laden soda pop, expensive lobster, steak meat or other questionably inappropriate items at the grocery store and thought to yourself, "I can't even afford to feed my own family these things with my honest income," you might be pleased to learn that lawmakers in Missouri are attempting to put a stop to what some say is a common misuse of government assistance.

Representative Rick Brattin recently introduced House Bill 813, which would bar Missouri's roughly 930,000 food stamp recipients from using redistributed money from taxpayers to buy expensive food items like seafood and steak, as well as junk foods like energy drinks, soda pop, cookies and chips. The proposed law was hatched in response to data purportedly showing that some of Missouri's poorest folks routinely use government welfare extravagantly and carelessly, just because they can.

The bill, which has yet to have a hearing, restricts the purchase of caffeine-added "energy drinks" containing at least 65 milligrams of added caffeine per eight fluid ounces. It also expressly prohibits the purchase of cookies, chips, soft drinks, seafood and steak by Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) enrollees, and requires that "able-bodied adults without dependents" receive only temporary assistance that expires, without extension or renewal.

"The department of social services shall allow the federal waiver of the supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP) work requirements for able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWD) granted to the state in effect as of the effective date of this section to expire and shall not seek an extension of such waiver," reads the bill.

Outlawing fish from food stamps might be excessive, but taxpayers shouldn't be subsidizing steak, junk food and porn

Despite the level to which the program has been stigmatized in recent years, SNAP is still being appropriately used by most of its enrollees, claim some. Opposed to what they say are excessive restrictions in the bills, including a blanket ban on all fish purchases, folks like Washington University professor Mark Rank, author of Living on the Edge: The Realities of Welfare in America, warn that lawmakers need to be careful in how such bills are crafted.

"There have been a lot of studies on fraud, when there were actually people buying, trading and selling their EBT cards, but it was a very small percentage of the overall population," said Rank, noting that there isn't substantial evidence to show that people are using their EBT cards to gorge on lobster. "[F]ish is good for you -- why should that be prohibited?"

Perhaps the bill will be amended to remove fish from the list of prohibited items, but the restrictions on junk food and expensive meats like steak and lobster seem reasonable. The food stamp program was intended to be temporary anyway, an act of good will to help struggling folks get back on their feet -- it wasn't meant to be a blank check for limitless abuse, which is how some people use it.

A related House Bill 977, also proposed in Missouri, would prohibit Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients from using federal welfare to purchase pornography. Like HB 813, HB 977 has not yet been scheduled for a hearing.

"What I find is, first of all, food stamps run out by the third week of the month," contends Rank, who supports expanding the food stamps program in appropriate ways, allowing recipients to purchase healthier food at places like farmers markets. "A lot of people I met are extremely frugal in terms of using their food stamps and making decent decisions for what foods to buy or not."





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