Legislators in Wisconsin are pushing a bill forward that could set an interesting precedent for state food stamp programs. The bill would make it a requirement of those who use food stamps, formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, to spend a set amount of them on food deemed to have “sufficient nutritional value.”
Similar measures have been tried in other states to little success. Minnesota attempted to prohibit the purchase of candy or soda with food stamps, and New York requested to ban certain sugary drinks. Both states’ requests were turned down at the federal level by the USDA. The USDA states that since there is no real standard of what is healthy and what can be considered junk food, bills like those are too vague. Though the bill has passed in Wisconsin’s Assembly, it has to also pass in their Senate. Even if it passes, the USDA could still step in and stop the measure.
The USDA has said its main concern is the expense of implementing a program like that in the bill. The list of acceptable foods would have to be updated constantly in order to keep up with the development of new food products. They also cite the difficulty in keeping up with those new food products as they are created. For such a program to exist, every food item would have to be assessed to be healthy or not, which doesn’t sound that daunting until the sheer number of foods is realized. Since there isn’t a current standard of determining whether a food is healthy or unhealthy, a system would need to be developed.
It is clear that a large amount of work would have to go in to making a program like the one proposed in Wisconsin legislation a reality. If the bill passes in the Wisconsin Senate and is allowed by the USDA, it could spur other states to pass similar legislation.
What do you think? Should there be a requirement that a certain amount of food stamps must be used on healthy food?