Robbin’ the Reuben

Maine Food Stamp Reform Could Include Banning Deli Meat, Pickles and More


Maine Gov. Paul LePage – attribution: Maine Department of Education

By Jen Hayden, Daily Kos – 

In the last year alone, Maine has kicked 9,000 people off the welfare rolls.

Now, Maine legislators have proposed new guidelines that would forbid SNAP beneficiaries from buying “junk foods.” The idea is to get people on food stamps to eat healthier, but it is also part of a troubling trend of state legislatures shaming food stamp recipients, like this bill in Missouri that would forbid recipients from buying fish and steak.

If Maine Governor Paul LePage has his way, this junk food ban would pass. But, as Think Progress notes, the term “junk food” has broad implications:

The legislation LePage supports claims that “the purchase of unhealthy products is antithetical to the purpose of the [food stamps] program.” But the definition of “unhealthy” that the bill uses is quite broad, and would prohibit the purchase of a range of groceries that are not exempt from sales tax under Maine law. That means alcohol, soda, unprescribed dietary supplements, seltzer and bottled water, sweets, “and prepared food.”The law goes even further than the tax code to prohibit food stamps from being used for bulk purchases of groceries that could be considered “prepared food” if they were bought individually. According to state tax guidelines, that includes packaged deli meats, large jars of spaghetti sauce, and pickles, among other things.

Meanwhile, Maine Democrats are looking for ways to encourage SNAP users to make healthier purchases:

A bill sponsored by Democrat State Sen. Chris Johnson would incentivize Mainers receiving SNAP benefits to buy healthier food.“The simple truth is that SNAP dollars don’t go far enough,” Johnson said in a statement. “People who are struggling to put food on the table, including SNAP recipients, often buy unhealthy foods because that’s all they can afford to fill their own or their children’s stomachs.”

Even though these types of proposals continue to shame impoverished Maine residents, they aren’t likely to have the final say:

Because SNAP is a federal program, Maine would need a waiver to change items covered.


Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos


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