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Democrats: Letting People Use Food Stamps Online Will Help Avoid ‘Health Crisis’

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Democrats in Congress want to avoid a health crisis and improve the economy by speeding up the process to allow food stamp use online.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture should accelerate a project that would test a pilot program where people could buy food online with food stamps, Sen. Cory Booker and Reps. Tim Ryan and Barbara Lee wrote in a letter to agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack Monday.

“It is imperative for the economic future and the health of all Americans to ensure that each person has access to nutritious and affordable food, especially the 46 million people who rely on [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits] to ensure that they and their families have enough food to eat,” the three Democrats wrote.

Because many people on food stamps live in “food deserts, have lower nutrition education, and live in poverty,” allowing them to use welfare online to purchase food would presumably increase the consumption of healthy food, Booker, Ryan and Lee argued.

The U.S. is facing “a health crisis,” they argued, with 70 percent of adults considered obese, 79 million pre-diabetic and 26 million diabetic Americans, plus trillions of dollars spent treating “chronic diseases and lifestyle choices many of which are preventable and can be treated, in part, by eating well.”

USDA is working on plans to test an online food stamps system with one online retailer. Fraud is one of the problems with allowing food stamps to pay for online transactions.

Only one online food seller has a secure, encrypted PIN system compatible with Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards, which the food stamps program uses. The Democrats urging speed with the system asked USDA to consider opening up the test project to other eligible retailers.

“One of the primary measures to address fraud is, initially, to limit the number of participating online retailers so that we can ensure that transactions are being routed properly and securely,” a USDA spokesperson told The Daily Caller News Foundation in August after the department announced plans to begin the pilot project.

“When we are satisfied that transaction routing is proper and secure, we will begin to expand more widely,” the spokesperson said.

Nearly 45 million people are on food stamps, and the program has paid out more than $50 billion in benefits in the past 12 months according to recent USDA data.

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