Maine is trying pass law restricting what people can and cannot buy with their government subsidized food stamps. If this law is passed, people will no longer be able to buy things like candy and soda with food stamps. Mary Mayhew, who works for the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, says that obesity has become an epidemic in the state, and this law aims curb that.
It is estimated that candy and sodas account for about five percent of the purchases that are made with food stamps. They also found that households that do not get food stamps spend about four percent of their food budget on junk food. Additionally, Maine has spent over $700 million on obesity-related illnesses.
The tricky part is that junk food is the most efficient, most accessible type of food for people in poverty. Junk food is cheap, junk food is full of preservatives and has a long shelf life, junk food is full of fats and carbohydrates, junk food is sold at every gas station and corner store. Fresh, healthy diets are more expensive to stick to, and especially for people living in rural and urban food deserts, getting to an actual grocery store can be really difficult. Particularly if you are a struggling parent working several jobs, your easiest, cheapest, most effective option for feeding your children might be to use your food stamps at McDonalds or the gas station.
This potential law has generated controversy on social media. One person stated that there is a better way to deal with the obesity epidemic than limiting what you can and cannot buy with food stamps, claiming it would be better for obese people to be charged a penalty tax. They do not agree with taking away American’s freedom of choice.
But here’s the thing: the government already prohibits people from using food stamps for certain things. Like alcohol or cigarettes. The government has determined that these are unhealthy and unnecessary for people, and so there are laws already in place that prohibit you from buying such items with food stamps. This is the same thing – the state of Maine has determined that junk food is unhealthy and unnecessary for its population and they don’t want to fund and support the poor health of its people.