May 4, 2013

Should food stamps fund junk food?

The bill advanced by Gov. LePage with bipartisan backing would prohibit food stamp recipients from buying soft drinks and junk food.

By Steve Mistler smistler@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

Today's poll: Food Stamps

Do you favor a ban on the use of food stamps to buy soft drinks and junk food?



View Results


THE SUPPLEMENTAL Nutrition Assistance Program prohibits the purchase of these items:

Prepared foods (fast food)

Alcohol, beer and wine

Cigarettes and other tobacco products

Nonfood items such as toilet paper, cleaning and household supplies.

The study found no evidence correlating food stamp use to poor dietary choices or health consequences.

One reason, it noted, is that food stamps only supplement a recipient's buying power, so the benefit doesn't necessarily dictate food choices.

"Low-income consumers and food stamp recipients are subject to the same factors that influence food choices throughout our society -- including marketing strategies, cultural preferences, the value of convenience, and personal tastes," the study said.

Anti-poverty groups made that argument on Friday.

Ann Woloson, with Maine Equal Justice Partners, told lawmakers that obesity and poor diets aren't restricted to one part of the population.

Other critics said the proposal unfairly targets poor people when obesity is a problem that affects the nation's entire population.

The Maine Grocers Association, a trade group for supermarkets and distributors, also opposed the proposal.

Shelley Doak, lobbyist for the organization, said the new restrictions would force grocers to retrain clerks and update computer systems.

Newell Auger, lobbyist for the Maine Beverage Association, which represents the soft drink industry, noted that consumption of full-calorie sodas declined 10 percent from 2000 to 2010, and that sales of bottled water climbed nearly 300 percent over the same period.

Auger said that if there was a strong correlation between soft drink consumption and obesity, then obesity rates should be decreasing.

The committee's work session on the bill has not yet been scheduled.

Steve Mistler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at:


Twitter: @stevemistler


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Today's poll: Food Stamps

Do you favor a ban on the use of food stamps to buy soft drinks and junk food?



View Results


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