Missouri Rep Wants to Keep SNAP Recipients From Purchasing Fish

At a local grocery store in Linn, Mo., a pound of bacon costs $4, and hot dogs range anywhere from $2 to $4 a pound depending on the brand. Frozen tilapia, cod and pollock price out at the same cost, and wild salmon just a few cents a pound more. One Missouri lawmaker wants to ensure that the fish meals are off the table for those who receive food assistance, though, despite the fact that often fish isn’t just a cheaper option, but a healthier one, too.

Republican state Representative Rick Brattin (yes, the “man’s permission for an abortion” lawmaker) has decided that the people who are receiving financial assistance to purchase food are having far too many choices at the grocery store. To remedy that, he’s introduced House Bill 813, which would limit what one can buy, eliminating steak, chips, soda, cookies and energy drinks, as well as seafood.

The impetus behind this doesn’t appear to be a belief that there are people abusing the system, according to The River Front Times, since there is no evidence that such a thing is happening. “While some restrictions on food stamps benefits make sense, [Washington University professor Mark Rank, who authored Living on the Edge: The Realities of Welfare in America] says banning seafood is a hard to justify,” writes Danny Wicentowski. “There’s just no data, he says, to suggest Missouri’s poor are using their electronic benefit cards to gorge on lobster. ‘There have been a lot of studies on fraud, when there were actually people buying, trading and selling their EBT cards, but it was a very small percentage of the overall population,’ he says. ‘But fish is good for you — why should that be prohibited?’”

Instead, it’s punishment, or so the writers at Wonkette believe: “Reading the list of banned things in the bill, we can see that part of this stems from the drive to control what poor people eat by banning unhealthy things, even though Republicans also think government should not tell people what to eat, because that is tyranny, at least when Michelle Obama does it. Part of the reason people receiving food stamps end up eating crap food is that crap food is processed and cheaper. The rest of the bill, where it bans fish and steak, is out of a desire to make sure poors never have nice things, ever. If they wanted nice things, they shouldn’t have made themselves poor! Instead they’ll have to stick with canned tuna fish. Oh wait, as the bill is written, that may be out the window too (because state reps are SO BAD at writing bills, Jesus Christ).”

Sadly, they are probably right. After all, SNAP benefits are notoriously small already, and the idea that the entirety could be spent on energy drinks or cookies ignores the reality that no, people who are food secure do in fact need to feed themselves every day, and those foods, while occasionally nice as a treat, are not going to be able to make that happen.

In essence, the bill is a means of public shaming, and one that happens far too often to those in poverty, as activist and writer Katie Klabusich explains on her blog: “Eventually you understand that buying that beer/coffee with a friend, bottle of wine for home, or Snickers bar for a sugar rush to get through the afternoon isn’t going to make or break you. Even if all those decisions were added up over the course of the month, they’d maybe hit $20 or $75. That’s not even enough to pay a utility bill. At some point you determine that the joy from that $5 purchase that allows you time with friends or a little relief during the day is the best thing you can do with that money. Denying yourself any joy at all would leave you, what, $200 ‘ahead’ at the end of the year? Would your mental and emotional state be better served by the coffee and the Snickers? Probably.”

Lawmakers like Brattin aren’t trying to help reduce fraud. They aren’t trying to help people be “healthier.” They are attempting to say that if you are poor, you do not deserve any sort of “luxury,” even if that comes as an occasional bag of chips, and that you are poor because you are incapable of making decisions in your own best interests. And if that requires punitive, non-nonsensical action like banning you from the seafood aisle, so be it.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

172 comments

Jack Y
Jack Y1 months ago

thanks

SEND
Jack Y
Jack Y1 months ago

thanks

SEND
John J
John J1 months ago

thanks for sharing

SEND
John J
John J1 months ago

thanks for sharing

SEND
Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for the article.

SEND
Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

SEND
GGmaSAway D.
Sheila D3 years ago

These people need to clean up their own carts and spending, not stick their noses into other people's carts. I'm on SNAP and I watch for sales very closely. When name brands have a sale I stock up. If you see my cart with 5-6 cans of name brand veggies it's because the sale allows me to buy them for Less than the sometimes less nutritious generic/store brands.

Rick, things aren't always what you think they are...Being on SNAP doesn't allow me to buy name brands everyday, but only on sale. Maybe if you took the time to check out the sales more you'd be able to buy name brands more.

SEND
Robert Hamm
Robert Hamm3 years ago

Ya know what I find hilarious??? That people somehow have the time to check out whats in otehr peoples carts and what form of payment they are using. You have to be watching pretty damned carefully to spot how and what people use for payment. I NEVER do seem to have the time NOR the inclinationto spot any of these things. Maybe people are too damned nosey about what their neiggbor in line is doing.
I have enough things on my mind I dodnt seeem to have any room to fill it with what my neighbor is doing in line. This judegemental crap has been going on for decades. Mind your own damned business.

SEND
Rick S.
Rick S.3 years ago

I'll bet most of the people complaining are the same people that are abusing the system. It's aggravating to see someone in the checkout with a cart full of name brand products and pay for it with SNAP. I work 40 hours a week and can't afford those products. It's either store brands or buy at ALDIS or SAVE A LOT. Something definitely needs to change.

SEND
Karen H.
Karen H3 years ago

Harkens back to the pre-TV days when welfare recipients weren't even allowed to have radios.

SEND