Rachael Dupree
April 9, 2015

Surf and Turf Off the SNAP Menu? - Photo by Melanie Holtsman/Flickr (UrbanFarmOnline.com) 

With an election year in sight, you can bet the political climate is going to get a bit more heated than usual—especially when it comes issues surrounding food. Cue debate on welfare reform.

Farmers—both rural and urban—are familiar with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (aka SNAP) and likely have varying opinions on how it’s run. To brush you up on your knowledge, the program commonly known as food stamps offers nutrition assistance to low-income households. Individuals can receive up to $197 per month and a family of four up to $649 per month—that’s even less per person, by the way—on an EBT card to spend at grocery stores, farmers markets or other retailers like gas stations.

While healthy options are available via SNAP (participants can even purchase seeds to grow their own garden), some would argue that the selection of affordable healthy food available to food-insecure families, especially those who live in food deserts, is far from diverse. However, one U.S. Representative wants to put further limits on the type of food one can purchase with their EBT card.

This week, Missouri State Representative Rick Brattin introduced a bill that would prohibit the purchase of “cookies, chips, energy drinks, soft drinks, seafood, or steak” using SNAP benefits. While the purchasing of junk foods has long been part of the SNAP discussion, the part about “seafood and steak” is raising some eyebrows, not only because seafood and beef can be part of a balanced diet but also because who the heck can afford to eat filet mignon on a $194-per-month grocery budget?!

Of course, Brattin admits that the language of the bill could use some editing. “My intention wasn’t to get rid of canned tuna and fish sticks,” a Washington Post blogger reported him saying. (Yikes! Shall we segue to a health-care debate?)

More than 930,000 Missourians who are SNAP participants could be affected by the outcome of this bill. Some people are worried the state’s elderly and disabled will be banned from buying a can of tuna, while others think this move is just rich politicians exerting their power over the vulnerable.

What do you think? How strict should our government be about SNAP purchases?

 


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