Here we go again. Gov. LePage is petitioning the federal government to keep junk food out of the hands of those receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamp) benefits.

As a former public health educator, I’m as alarmed as anyone else regarding the obesity epidemic.

It’s also easy for me to understand that someone who struggles every day to keep his head above water financially might reach for a small indulgence like a candy bar.

Then there’s this fact, reported by economist Eric Finkelstein and business writer Laurie Zuckerman: “Seventy percent of food stamp participants … are expected to purchase a portion of their food with their own money.”

So there’s no guarantee that restrictions would affect food purchases.

A U.S. Department of Agriculture report on SNAP limits uncovers the folly of what LePage is asking for. With 300,000-plus food products on the market, and thousands more introduced each year, “the task of identifying, evaluating and tracking the nutritional profile of every food available for purchase would be substantial.

The burden of identifying which products met federal standards would most likely fall on an expanded bureaucracy,” the USDA concluded. That alone should give most Republicans pause.

I’m guessing this is really about keeping a negative vision of those in need front and center as we head into a race for the Blaine House in 2018. That keeps the focus off the abysmal record that LePage will leave in his wake. It also keeps us divided as a people.

If you’ve paid any attention to the tax “reform” effort in D.C., you know that the real threat is not from the poor among us. It’s from the wealthy, whose greed seems bottomless.

I’m praying that Mainers will vote next year for a government that brings us together instead of pitting us against our neighbors.

Only by coming together as a people will we thrive as a state.

Mary Ann Larson