Ritchie bill restricts purchasing of junk, luxury foods with SNAP benefits


Ritchie bill restricts purchasing of junk, luxury foods with SNAP benefits

pOreo cookies and crab legs could come off the menu for those using state benefits to purchase food should a state Senate bill work its way through the Legislature and gain the governor’s favor. /ppSen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, introduced legislation Thursday that would prohibit enrollees in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program from purchasing taxable “junk” food, such as soda, cookies and candy using SNAP benefits. The bill also restricts the use of SNAP for luxury foods, such as steak and lobster. /pp“Many of these items aren’t just unhealthy, they’re also expensive,” Sen. Ritchie said in a statement. “This legislation would not only help low-income families and individuals stretch their food budgets further and promote health and nutrition, it would also protect taxpayers from abuse of a program that’s intended to help those who have fallen on hard times.”/ppBut St. Lawrence County Department of Social Services Commissioner Christopher R. Rediehs said more SNAP restrictions isn’t the answer to the problem. /ppMr. Rediehs said adding more restrictions to SNAP benefits will raise complicated questions for lawmakers to consider, such as establishing the exact criteria for labeling the junk and luxury food that may not qualify./pp“I’m not sure about how effective this would be,” he said. “Would it really limit unwise purchases? Would steak or lobster still be unwise purchases if they were less (expensive) than hamburger?”/ppSen. Ritchie’s bill also directs the Office of Temporary Disability Assistance to list luxury food items that cannot be bought using a SNAP benefits EBT card./ppThe bill’s Web page cites the growing obesity rate in New York as the justification for the bill. About 27 percent of New Yorkers are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. /ppBut Mr. Rediehs also noted that restricting these foods under SNAP doesn’t necessarily mean consumers will stop purchasing them altogether. SNAP benefits work only as supplemental funds, and expensive or unhealthy food can still be bought with cash./ppTeresa W. Gaffney, DSS commissioner for Jefferson County, said the bill has sound intentions, but getting it in place may not be easy. /pp“I think any effort that supports healthy eating is worth looking at, but I would question the implementation and monitoring of something like this,” she said./ppThat said, Mrs. Gaffney said it’s the department’s job to administer the programs under the law, and it has no say in what effect a new law could have on the SNAP system. /pp“Whatever the law is, we follow,” she said./ppCertain items, such as tobacco, alcohol, pet food and vitamins are already prohibited under SNAP guidelines. /ppLewis County DSS Commissioner Jennifer Jones did not return requests for comment./ppState Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, also introduced legislation last week concerning SNAP benefits./ppWhereas Sen. Ritchie’s bill specifically targets junk and luxury food, Sen. Griffo’s bill sets new consequences for repeated violations when SNAP benefits are used for purposes other than food purchases. Under his bill, a SNAP user can lose the benefits for up to three consecutive months if three improper use violations, such as using them for gambling, are committed./p
Source: Watertown Daily Times Latest News
Ritchie bill restricts purchasing of junk, luxury foods with SNAP benefits

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