In an effort to get better nutrition, some senators in Florida are creating a bill to restrict junk food. Florida legislation is just one of many states to consider the idea. The bill would prevent shoppers from buying nonstaple, unhealthy foods with federal aid. Tight budgets and health concerns are creating the conjecture for the bill, but some say that the bill places unnecessary restrictions and tries to place a “luxury” restriction on what food can be bought.
Ronda Storms is a Republican state senator from Florida. She also has a family of four that she buys groceries for every week. A few months ago, Storms noticed that fellow shoppers used federal food stamp money to purchase junk food. The idea was terribly problematic to her. Florida was cutting Medicaid reimbursements, public school funding and jobs in order to keep a tight budget when food stamp participants were purchasing fatty, high-processed foods, according to her.
”If we’re going to be cutting services across the board,” she said, “then people can live without potato chips, without store-bought cookies, without their sodas.”
Storms has said that it is a sense of unfairness, as well as a health concern for children that is the new motivation behind the bill that is going to move the bill throughout the Senate. Storms sponsored the bill and wishes to stop people from purchasing “nonstape, unhealthy foods” with funds that are provided by SNAP.
The bill, which was approved last week in the Senate 4 to 2, by a committee on child and elderly fairs that Storms also chairs. It is the latest in the recent events with statehouses to restrict what shoppers can buy with federal food stamps.
There is an anxiety about health that is causing most of the concern, including the national obesity problem. There are other cases where public benefits is being scrutinized under tight budgets. According to federal statistics, more than 46 million Americans are eating groceries bought with SNAP funds. In the last year, legislation seeking to restrict SNAP purchases was introduced in California, Oregon, Illinois, Vermont and Texas. However, none of this legislation successfully passed.
The USDA also rejected New York City mayor’s “demonstration project” which restricted the purchase of soda. In 2004, Minnesota had a plan to prohibit the purchase of soda and candy. In Florida, the bill is being challenged by anti-hunger advocates, as well as Democrats like Senator Audrey Gibson. She is one of two lawmakers who voted against it on Wednesday.
It’s like we’re attacking poor people because they’re poor, and because they’re asking for some assistance,” Gibson said.
Storms has suggested that lobbyists are the main problem. Lobbyists from the food industry like the Corn Refiners of America, the Florida Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association. Storms says that it’s because these industries gain a lot of revenue from families on food stamps. However, there is one key challenge to the bill. The USDA also had the same idea when it rejected Bloomberg’s plans. The possible restriction might lead to further stigma placed upon those who receive food stamps.