Texas State Representative Briscoe Cain has introduced HB 4364, which limits the amount of junk food SNAP recipients can toss into their shopping cart. “At-risk Texans and families who utilize the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program are often the most susceptible to diabetes and the serious complications associated with it,” says Cain, a Republican from Baytown County. “HB 4364 seeks to curb the spread of diabetes and other health complications among Texans in at-risk populations by eliminating sugary drinks and snacks from the state’s nutrition assistance program.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture keeps tabs on the kinds of foods SNAP recipients consume. The results are dismal. Nearly a quarter (23 percent) of all food that is snatched up is from the junk food category. Instead of living up to its name, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program allows recipients to fill their cart with junk. As it stands today, the SNAP program allows people to waste away, trapped on a diet of nutrient-void food. The most sought-after junk food is soda pop and other sugary, carbonated beverages. The only other food category consumed as much as junk food is the “meat, poultry, and seafood” category.
Representative Cain has specifically outlined the types of junk foods that are off-limits. The bill targets “potato or corn chips,” sweetened, carbonated beverages, and “any beverage that “contains 65 milligrams of caffeine per eight fluid ounces.” Coffee and juice drinks are not included in the restrictions. This SNAP reform is a great way to prompt Americans to eat healthier and feel better so they can help themselves move forward in life.
A similar proposal was defeated in the Arkansas state House of Representatives by a 31-29 vote earlier in 2019. Lawmakers are afraid to limit choice for SNAP recipients, even though the SNAP program is a handout. If beneficiaries are truly in need, they should appreciate what they are given to eat. SNAP should abide by a healthy list of foods and set a new standard for public health.
SNAP beneficiaries suffer from double the rate of obesity, compared to non-beneficiaries. These are the findings of Cindy Leung, a nutrition researcher at the University of California, San Francisco. Leung warns, “The diets of low-income children are far from meeting national dietary recommendations. Policy changes should be considered to restructure SNAP to improve children’s health.”
Higher rates of obesity also correlate with other health problems, including but not limited to heart disease and Type-2 diabetes. The wide-open availability of nutrient-void foods is destroying the health of SNAP recipients. The handout also frees up their budget for other unhealthy habits. With their food handed to them, some recipients spend their extra cash on cigarettes and alcohol.
The problem is -- reforming SNAP would take business away from the medical profession. An estimated $23.7 billion is spent in Texas to treat the problems associated with this bad Standard American diet. A new dietary standard for SNAP would improve the metabolic profile of recipients, strengthen their digestive system, stabilize their blood pressure, and clean up their arteries, reducing emergencies and routine doctor visits.
If the bill passes in Texas, the USDA would still have to approve of the rule changes. It will be interesting to watch and see if the USDA cares about improving the standards of health in Texas and ultimately in the entire United States. After all, why should taxpayers be forced to bankroll toxic food pumped out by the toxic food giants?