The Texas Bill with projected Ban
Roughly 40 million Americans struggle with not having enough to eat, with children the most vulnerable, according to government data. The name of this federally sponsored program is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) commonly known as Food Stamps, implemented by the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) Administration. The individual states implement this program through different agencies involved (under the federal government’s oversight).
The SNAP or food stamps, extending nutrition assistance costs taxpayers about $70 billion annually to help these 40 million Americans. According to a 2016 U.S. Department of Agriculture report, sugary drinks account for about 10 percent of SNAP food dollars spent.
Lawmakers in the US state of Texas have proposed a new bill banning SNAP consumers from using food stamps to pay for items such as energy drinks, sugary sodas, cookies, chips, and candy. One recent study has revealed that stores took advantage of financial incentives from the SNAP by marketing sugary beverages during the days when SNAP benefits were disbursed to these beneficiaries.
A lawmaker Rep. Briscoe Cain from Texas proposed a bill, in May 2019, that would limit the SNAP recipients of the state from using the benefits to purchase sugary drinks and other junk food. Another proposal launched earlier this year would require photographs on the government-issued cards used by the state’s SNAP program, which the bill’s sponsors say would prevent fraud.
The lawmaker is of the view that the ban is aimed at lowering the frequency of diabetes and other health problems associated with eating junk food among low-income Americans.
It is expected that if the bill is passed the people on food stamps in the Lone Star state will be barred from using their SNAP assistance to buy energy drinks, soda, cookies, candy or potato chips, etc.
The mover of the recently initiated legislation aiming to take out the junk food from the low-income shopping carts said that it is observed that eating such junk food by the beneficiaries of food stamp (SNAP) program could to lead to health issues among them. The proposed bill seeks to curb the spread of diabetes and other related health complications among Texas populations by abolishing sugary drinks and refreshments from the state’s food assistance program.
The proposed bill defines “energy drink” as a beverage containing at least 65 milligrams of caffeine per eight fluid ounces. Coffee would still be allowed, as would fruit and vegetable juice.
The legislation was filed in the state House Committee for Human Services out of concern for the spread of diseases among the vulnerable masses who would not be able to pay for the expensive treatment of the illnesses resulting out of eating junk food for a long period of time.
According to a local report, at-risk Texans and families who utilize the SNAP are often the most prone to diabetes and the serious complications associated with it. In addition to the above report, KSDK also shared the information that over 3 million people in the State suffer from diabetes.
If passed, the bill would take effect on Sept. 1, 2019.
- Mary Story, a scholar in the field of child and adolescent nutrition at Duke’s Global Health Institute and a member of the USDA’s 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, said that the guidelines, currently being revised for 2020, recommend limiting calories from added sugars to no more than 10 percent of daily intake. That’s 200 calories, about 12 teaspoons or 48 grams, for a 2,000-calorie diet.
- A 16-ounce Rockstar Punched tropical guava-flavored energy drink has 62 grams of sugar accounting for more than the daily recommendation by dieticians for added sugar.
- You can put health claims and nutrition claim and pictures of fruit on a label. Look at SunnyD: It’s not a fruit drink, but there are pictures of fruit on the label. There was always a sense that obesity was the individual’s fault. It’s really the environment that people live in. Consumers have a right to know what’s in their food.
Other states planning a general ban to limit sugary beverages
Diets with high sugar percentage certainly have an impact on public health in general, which has directed legislators in other states to initiate legislations towards cutting soda and sugary drink usage by limiting soft drink bottles’ sizes and altering rules on types of drinks restaurants should be allowed to offer kids.
These soda taxes and similar measures, however, are essentially unpopular and difficult to pass because of the power and influence of the soda lobby. In the case of New York City’s soda proscription law, a court ruled that the city’s Board of Health didn’t have the power to recommend a ban.
History of Similar bills
- The bill introduced in Texas is not the first time legislators have attempted to debar government subsidies of sugary drinks. In 2012, a Florida state Sen. Ronda Storms (R) sponsored a similar bill to curb the purchase of soda and junk food with SNAP dollars. It did not pass.
- In 2011, the USDA rejected a request by then-New York City Mayor to restrict the use of food stamp dollars to purchase sodas.
As there is a looming danger SNAP program being abolished under the Trump administration, which thinks that it not as a vital tool for helping prevent hunger in the country, but as a financial burden on taxpayers.
The advocates of the SNAP program in the Congress and elsewhere argue that if this really was a matter of public health then wouldn’t it be better to pass legislation for sugary beverages, in general, that affects all American consumers, rather than a small minority of SNAP users? Or making healthy food more affordable for everyone in the country?
The opponent of these proposed bills objects to the government infringing on the freedoms of low-income Americans. As a report by the USDA disclosed that in truth, non-SNAP households spend equally on sugary drinks, which account for around 7 percent of food purchases.
Limiting unhealthful foodstuff with SNAP benefits might not be the best policy, but labeling clearness and consumer education are crucial for all.