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Tennesse Food Stamp Bill Looking to Ban Junk Food

Update Date: Jan 17, 2017 08:40 AM EST

Tennessee legislators have proposed to ban food stamps that encourage the puchase of junk food, soda and other food that has no nutritional value. The bill was introduced Thursday by state Rep. Sheila Butt, who wants to prohibit food items that are high in calories, sugar and fat, such as soda, ice cream, cookies and cake.

If the bill becomes law, sellers will be prohibited from selling banned items to people on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is the federal agency that manages the $74 billion program. They will then be required to make an official list of banned food items once the bill is approved.

NY Daily News reported in a statement announcing her bill, Butt claimed, "When you're receiving taxpayer dollars, it's not money that you've have earned. It's money that other people have earned and is redistributed to you. Strings come along with that."

The legislator added, "By allowing their purchase with EBT cards, we are actually enhancing diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity in at-risk communities."

"At the end of the day, if you're on public assistance, you shouldn't be using taxpayer dollars to consume junk food that leads to additional health problems and more taxpayer assistance to address those problems."

First time offenders will be fined $1,000 if they use their EBT cards to buy junk food. Second offense would cost a person $2,500, while a 3rd offense is for $5,000.

The Tennessean reported more than $134 million in benefits were distributed to more than 1 million Tennesseans as SNAP assistance as of November of 2016.

Linda Williams, the president and CEO of the RISE Foundation in Memphis, said the legislation punishes low-income individuals. She also stated that health problems caused by junk food should be addressed through education.

Access and availability of healthy foods are a bigger problem. Williams added "It's not really a legislative issue; it's an educational issue."

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