Rep. Butt proposes ban on ice cream, cake for food stamp recipients

State Rep. Sheila Butt, R-Columbia, proposes in HB43 to prohibit use of food stamps to purchase products “high in calories, sugar, and fat without any nutritional value, including, but not limited to, soda, ice cream, candy, cookies, and cake.”

The bill provides that those buying candy, cake and ice cream with government-provided funds be required to reimburse the state Department of Human Services. Businesses caught selling the unauthorized products in exchange for food stamps would face a $1,000 fine on first offense; $2,500 on second offense; $5,000 on third and subsequent offenses.

“We have so much obesity in this state that we can’t just sit around and do nothing,” Butt tells Cari Wade Gervin, who, well, doesn’t think very highly of the proposal. Her commentary, HERE, has the headline, “Sheila Butt to the Poor: Let them not eat cake.”

On her website, Butt has a post on her proposal HERE. An excerpt:

“I go into convenience stores almost every day and see the most non-nutritional foods on the counters and in the aisles marked ‘EBT Approved.’ These are the same foods that we have banned from our children’s lunchrooms,” said Butt. “By allowing their purchase with EBT cards, we are actually enhancing diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity in at-risk communities.”

Butt takes issue with the idea that taxpayers should be subsidizing unhealthy lifestyle choices for those on public assistance programs, which she says taxpayers end up footing the bill for on the back end as well.

“Taxpayers are supporting unhealthy lifestyle choices on the front end and up paying for resulting health care costs on the back end,” explained Butt. “This is very counterproductive, counterintuitive and costly.”

WSMV-TV has comments from food stamp recipients. Excerpt via the Columbia Daily Herald:

“That’s what it’s for, as long as it’s food, it shouldn’t be their choice what I eat,” said Madge Johnson, who uses an EBT card.

Johnson said she used to be homeless and now depends on food assistance to fill her fridge. She said sometimes processed food is the only option.

“We should be able to eat what we want to eat,” Johnson said. “There are so many people, the homeless, who don’t even have a stove. They don’t have a place to eat. They’ve got to eat Vienna sausages out the can, potato chips or whatever.”

Teon Lewis, who also uses an EBT card for food stamps, said her family doesn’t eat a lot of junk food. Yet, she feels the prices of fresh food would have to come down, especially when budgeting for a family.

“I’ve got four girls, so when I go into the store and there’s a table here with brownies for $1.99, but there’s a set up here with fresh fruits and vegetables for $5 to $7, I’m going to pick the brownies,” Lewis said.

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