Texas legislators consider banning use of food stamps to purchase junk food, energy drinks

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Texas legislators are considering banning people from using food stamps to purchase junk food and energy drinks.

According to Democratic state Rep. Richard Peña Raymond, who is sponsoring the bill to ban junk food purchases with public-assistance dollars, taxpayers should not be paying for food that could hurt people’s health and ultimately run up government costs down the line.

“You buy whatever you want. You want to buy two pounds of butter and go have that for supper? That’s your money. You do whatever you want,” Raymond told KGBT-TV. “We should not be on the one hand use money tax dollars to buy junk food, and then on the other hand use tax dollars to pay for health related diseases that come about because of junk food.”

Raymond’s bill would prohibit the use of food stamps, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, to purchase sweetened beverages, candy, potato or corn chips, and cookies.

The ban would have some exceptions. Baby formula and certain weight loss products, for example, would be exempt.

Another bill, which is also under consideration, would eliminate the use of SNAP benefits to purchase energy drinks.

“There’s nothing nutritious or healthy about these products, and in fact they’re potentially dangerous to children,” that bill’s sponsor, Democratic state Rep. Terry Canales, told KGBT-TV. “We don’t believe you should be able to use government funds to buy them.”

His bill would prohibit SNAP benefits from being used to buy “beverage[s] containing at least 65 milligrams of caffeine per 8 fluid ounces that is advertised as being specifically designed to provide metabolic stimulation or an increase to the consumer’s mental or physical energy,” according to the legislation, which would not ban coffee or coffee-based beverages.

The legislation would also include an education outreach provision, to promote awareness about the prohibition.

Both pieces of legislation would take effect on Sept. 1, 2013.

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Caroline May