In a controversial move, the state of Maine is once again seeking the approval of the federal government to ban the use of food stamps to purchase certain types of food. State health officials claim that too much candy and soft drinks are leading to significant health care costs for the estate.
Mary Mayhew, the commissioner of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, says that the State is facing an obesity epidemic, and wants to prohibit the use of food stamps to buy certain foods.
According to federal studies conducted by the US Department of Agriculture, soft drinks and candy account for approximately five percent of all purchases made with food stamps. In the study, they found that households that do not use food stamps spend about four percent of their food budget on sugar foods and drinks.
The study was conducted by the USDA to examine the seventy billion dollar federal program’s efficacy and was based on the data of one of the country’s largest food retailers for the year 2011.
Maine says that it spends about seven hundred million dollars on obesity related health care costs each year, and that the number is growing.
In addition to asking for the exclusion of certain types of foods, the state is also asking permission to redirect about four million dollars of federal assistance into nutritional education targeting schools, food banks and other resources.
While this requests do make a certain amount of sense, from a fiscal perspective, they are drawing a lot of fire from libertarian minded citizens who feel that one’s food and health choices are private matters.
People have taken to social media and the internet to say things like:
“Perhaps a penalty tax for everyone who is 25 pounds overweight could also be introduced on the floor. Maybe a resolution to ban all companies from doing business in the state of Maine who test their products on animals would work well for you. The bottom line is that the State is not the authority nor should they be. Government cannot be allowed to remove freedom of choice from it’s people. “- MD Crandell
“Why politicians think they have to legislate what poor people eat is beyond me. Just goes to show you the level of empathy of some of our elected officials.”- Trevor Moore
Recent years have brought an effort to limit, control, and even do away with food assistance programs at the state level across our country. From legislative moves to require recipients to submit to drug testing, which has proven to be immensely costly while not demonstrating any factual basis for continued testing, to governors who have simply refused to claim funds that are legally available to help their state residents by Congress, many see a perceived war on America’s poorest and youngest citizens.
Programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, are almost entirely targeted at working families with children, and is composed of more than 40 million of our fellow citizens.