• Mon, Feb 4 2013

SC Officials Want To Ban Buying Soda With Food Stamps: Overstepping or Overdue?

southcarolinefoodstampslaw

Lawmakers in South Carolina want to make it impossible to buy soda with food stamps. Since about a third of people in the state are overweight, they’re hoping it will begin to curb the obesity problem—but is their thinking misguided?

About 1.5 million people in South Carolin are obese. Officials in the Department of Health and Environmental Control and the Department of Social Services want to start with a small sample population (just three counties) and see if prohibiting the purchase of soda by EBT (commonly called food stamps) users will help this growing problem.

DHEC director Catherine Templeton said:

 We’re not trying to prevent people from exercising their free choice, that’s fine. But I don’t think its appropriate for the federal government to spend $2 billion a year on sugar-added drinks than have to pay the hundreds of billions of health costs that are caused by the obesity epidemic.

We’ve written about similar proposed laws in Florida, as well as research that shows that $2.1 billion dollars of food stamps money is spent each year on sugary drinks.  I have to admit I’m kind of torn on this issue. While I agree that the obesity problem in our country is completely out of control (and that people are way too addicted to soda) there’s a libertarian streak in me that doesn’t think the government should be able to sanction what people eat, do, or buy. I’m sure there are people who will say that people who use government assistance should just take what they get, but that’s not an attitude I agree with.

There are already some restrictions in place on what can be purchased with an EBT card: alcohol, tobacco, medicine and pet products are just a few.

What do you think about this issue? Should people be free to buy whatever they want with their government assistance or should there be limits?

Photo: Shutterstock

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  • Eileen

    People should be able to buy whatever they want with their own money. Government assistance isn’t that. Government assistance is designed to help people, and food stamps in particular are designed to keep people from becoming malnourished. Soda doesn’t have any health benefits whatsoever (ever notice it doesn’t even really quench your thirst?), so it’s not helping people. I don’t have a problem adding soda to the list of “things you can’t buy with food stamps.”

    • http://www.ahealthysliceoflife.com/ Brittany (healthy slice)

      I couldn’t have said it better. I like for government to be limited and stay out of people’s lives, however if the government is providing the funds then I think they have a say in what the funds can be used towards. Like Eileen said, the funds are to help people stay nourished, and soda and KFC don’t exactly fit that description.

    • Hannah

      Nailed it.

  • Eileen

    People should be able to buy whatever they want with their own money. Government assistance isn’t that. Government assistance is designed to help people, and food stamps in particular are designed to keep people from becoming malnourished. Soda doesn’t have any health benefits whatsoever (ever notice it doesn’t even really quench your thirst?), so it’s not helping people. I don’t have a problem adding soda to the list of “things you can’t buy with food stamps.”

  • Beth in TX

    I was going to comment, but after reading Eileen’s post decided I couldn’t say it better myself — hit the nail on the head.

  • Hannah

    “….there’s a libertarian streak in me that doesn’t think the government should be able to sanction what people eat, do, or buy.”
    I think if you have a libertarian streak, you’d sooner take issue with the fact that the government gave them that money. Barring that, I feel if the government IS giving people assistance, then yes, they do have a right–and a responsibility– to regulate how it’s used.

  • Jim Cogar

    Since the government-”We the people”, are paying the tab, they have the right to decide what can or cannot be used with food stamps. If they have the right to ban cigarettes, beer, wine, etc. from the food stamp menu, why shouldn’t they decide on other unhealthy & unnecessary items?