NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A Tennessee lawmaker has introduced legislation seeking to ban the use of food stamps to buy items without nutritional value.
Republican Rep. Sheila Butt of Columbia says banned items would be those high in calories, sugar and fat, such as sodas, ice cream, candy, cookies and cake. The measure would also prohibit grocers from selling banned items to people on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
In a statement, Butt said it was time for food stamp reform.
"I go into convenience stores almost every day and see the most non-nutritional foods on the counters and
in the aisles marked 'EBT Approved.' These are the same foods that we have banned from our children's
lunch rooms,” said Butt.
LINK: House Bill 43
She added that by allowing those purchases with EBT cards, we're enhancing diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity in at-risk communities.
Butt's bill would require the state Department of Human Services to seek a waiver from the federal government to establish a list of which food items would be banned for food stamp recipients, using the recommendations of the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a guide.
More than 1 million Tennesseans received food stamp assistance as of November, totaling nearly $135 million.
Rob Ikard, President and CEO of the Tennessee Grocers and Convenience Store Association, said his organization is evaluating the impact of the legislation.
"We are reviewing it and don’t as yet know what its impact might be," Ikard said. "We will be soliciting reactions from our retail members."
A representative of the Department of Human Services said they are also working to determine what this bill would mean for their programs.
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