Florida Considering Legislation Banning Food Stamps For “Unhealthy Food”
Here’s a conundrum for conservatives/libertarians. The state legislature in Florida is considering a bill that would ban the use of food stamps for what the state defines as “unhealthy food.” On one hand, we in the limited government movement don’t want the government telling us what to eat. On the other hand, limited government types don’t exactly like expansive entitlement programs either.
Doug Mataconis calls this “paternalism,” and while there’s certainly an element of that in this legislation, I’m not so sure I’m against the legislation.
Florida’s poor can use food stamps to buy staples like milk, vegetables, fruits and meat. But they can also use them to buy sweets like cakes, cookies and Jell-O and snack foods like chips, something a state senator wants stopped.
Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Valrico, also wants to limit other welfare funds, known as Temporary Assistance For Needy Families, from being used at ATMs in casinos and strip clubs and anywhere out of state. The bill comes after reports that the debit cards welfare recipients now receive were used in those places, as well as locations in Las Vegas and the Virgin Islands in a small percentage of cases, but the state does not track what items were purchased.
The bill recently passed a committee. A companion bill in the state House companion is being considered by a subcommittee.
The bill would also require the state to launch a culturally sensitive campaign to educate people about the benefits of a nutritious diet. Supporters say it would help recipients follow healthy eating habits and prevent taxpayer funds from being used to purchase luxury foods like bakery cakes when they can whip up a cheaper box mix.
“Most individuals using public assistance dollars are using the funds to get by and to provide for their families. However, we should do what we can to prevent dollars intended to help Florida’s poorest families from being spent in the wrong places,” Storms said in a statement.
But critics say the government shouldn’t dictate what people eat.
“What I choose to ingest even though I may be on food stamps, that’s at my discretion. I don’t need government telling me what I can and cannot purchase,” said Rep. Gwyndolen Clarke-Reed, a Pompano Beach Democrat who voted in committee against the bill (SB 1658). She said the bill is demeaning and invasive and she worries the education campaign would imply to “minorities and low-income folks that they’re not intelligent enough to make selections on the foods they want.”
There is some question as to whether or not the federal government would allow this to happen. Food stamps, while administered by the states, are a federal program. According to the article, this move by Florida would need to be approved by the USDA and tested through a pilot program first.
I’m also not exactly enthused with the legislation starting up new government programs to educate the public about healthy eating. That sort of thing is most certainly paternalism. But as for limiting the types of food that can be bought with food stamps?
I’m not necessarily against it, even born as it is of nanny statistism. Food stamps are supposed to act as a safety net program. The idea is to keep people from starving, not to keep them Doritos and Mountain Dew. I don’t think that people who are dependent on the taxpayers to feed them necessarily have a right to complain about what they’re fed.
If you want to eat whatever you want, pay for it yourself. If you’re going to rely on the taxpayers for sustenance, take what you get.
I’d be for reducing food stamps benefits to a bag of rice complete with instructions on how to boil it.Tags: florida, food stamps, junk food, nanny statism