A revived push in Congress would allow food stamp recipients to spend their benefits on vitamins.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, nearly 40,000 households in Alabama Congressman Mike Rogers’ district receive food stamp benefits.
They, along with the millions of others across the country, can spend the money on food and drinks, but not on vitamins and supplements.
“It’s just a choice. I want to give people a choice,” Rep. Rogers said. “A lot of these families are very poor, and they don’t get a good nutritious diet. They lack the vitamins and minerals they need.”
So, Rogers introduced legislation to change the rules.
“I just find it amazing that you can use your food stamps or SNAP benefits to buy Cheetos, but you can’t buy a multivitamin,” he said.
Opponents fear the legislation will leave some families hungry as they replace real food with supplements.
Instead, groups like the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities want Congress to boost SNAP benefits to help them pay for healthier options, saying in part, “Increasing participants’ purchasing power would improve both food security and diet quality.” Click here to read their full statement.
Rogers said that was one of the arguments he heard when he first tried to run the proposal during last year’s Farm Bill debate.
“It ran into opposition from the food organizations who wanted to make sure none of their money was cut into and I’m sure we’ll have that fight this time,” he said.
Rogers added his legislation won’t cost taxpayers any more money and that his next step is to sell it to the Agricultural Committee.
According to the USDA, households can currently use SNAP benefits to buy:
- Meat, poultry and fish.
- Dairy products.
- Breads and cereals.
- Other foods such as snack foods and non-alcoholic beverages.
- Seeds and plants, which produce food for the household to eat.
Households currently cannot use SNAP benefits to buy:
- Beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes or tobacco
- Vitamins, medicines and supplements (If an item has a Supplement Facts label, it is considered a supplement and is not eligible for SNAP purchase).
- Live animals (except shellfish, fish removed from water, and animals slaughtered prior to pick-up from the store).
- Prepared foods fit for immediate consumption.
- Hot foods.
- Any nonfood items such as pet foods.
- Cleaning supplies, paper products and other household supplies.
- Hygiene items and cosmetics.