Roe reintroduces Healthy Food Choices Act
Published 8:36 am Thursday, March 24, 2016
U.S. Rep. Phil Roe introduced a bill in Congress on Wednesday aimed at encouraging healthier eating habits for those who receive government assistance by changing the items that can be purchased through programs.
The Healthy Food Choices Act would prohibit participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps, from buying food items with little to no nutritional value with their program benefits. The proposal would bar the purchase of items like soft drinks, candy and energy drinks as well as other low-nutrition items with their SNAP benefits.
“As a physician, I understand how important a healthy diet is, and I strongly believe we should prioritize the necessity and healthfulness of food items subsidized by taxpayers,” Roe said. “After hearing from many constituents at town hall meetings about the ongoing issue of SNAP benefits being used to purchase non-essential items, I decided to bring this issue to Congress.
This is the second consecutive session of Congress that Roe (R-Tenn.) has introduced the Healthy Food Choices Act. Last year, the bill did not receive enough support to pass.
The first version of the Healthy Food Choices Act would have applied the same standards from the Women Infants and Children (WIC) program to SNAP.
“As an OB-GYN, I have seen how the WIC program helps empower families receiving assistance by prioritizing healthy food purchases for expectant mothers, and believe that this program can serve as a guide for what we allow within SNAP,” Roe said.
While Roe said he feels the WIC program could provide a good example for the SNAP program, he recognized that the nutritional needs for pregnant women and infants are not the same as the nutritional needs of the larger and more diverse group of individuals who receive benefits through the SNAP program. With that in mind, Roe worked to refine the food offerings and the lists of allowed and non-allowed items that have been included with the new version of the bill.
“I understand that many families rely on SNAP benefits, and my bill does not cut SNAP,” Roe said. “This bill does, however, ensure the items being purchased with SNAP benefits are real, nutritious food items.”
“SNAP recipients are still able to purchase any of the prohibited items with personal funds, but I believe taxpayers should only provide assistance in purchasing wholesome, nutritious foods,” he added. “This bill is not perfect, but I hope it will start the important conversation about how we improve the health of families who rely on government assistance programs.”
In announcing the re-introduction of the bill, Roe cited a 2014 study by Stanford University medical researchers which found that banning sugary drink purchases with SNAP benefits would prevent at least 141,000 children and 281,000 adults from becoming obese, in addition to preventing 240,000 adults from developing Type 2 Diabetes.