Big retailers making big money by keeping Food Stamp program status quo

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by Chris Nagus / News 4

KMOV.com

Posted on February 25, 2013 at 10:43 PM

Updated Saturday, Nov 23 at 8:53 PM

 

(KMOV.com) -- Candy, cupcakes, and soda all purchased with tax dollars.

Now one Missouri lawmaker wants to trim the fat, by cutting out taxpayer funded junk food.

But he’s not making friends with big retailers who are also hooked on food stamps.

State Senator David Sater is serving up controversy, his bill would restrict food stamp dollars to healthy food.

“It’s a matter of using our money wisely for best products for our citizens … I mean it’s different if you were using your own money at the grocery store and buying a six pack of coke” said Sater.

He claims Wal-Mart is lobbying against his bill and so is the Missouri Grocers Association.

Grocer Association Director Dan Shaul is most worried about the health of Missouri supermarkets.

“I think it’s better to educate people on how to eat healthier then try to limit their choices” said Shaul.

He says Sater’s bill would send food stamp dollars across state lines to stores where junk food could still be purchased.

So how much money is used to buy junk anyway? The reality: we have no idea.

Because the United State Department of Agriculture doesn’t track what’s purchased with food stamp dollars.

In Missouri, that’s more than a billion dollars each year.

Quite simply, those who favor the status quo don’t think it’s fair to tell people what to eat even if it’s your tax dollars.

Although food stamps are funded with your tax dollars, the USDA sees no reason to tell you who’s profiting off those dollars and News 4’s requests for that information has been denied.

But there are clues. Some Missouri welfare cards allow recipients to withdraw cash; it’s called TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families). 

Those withdrawals are tracked, at Wal-Mart more $14,965,587.57 were withdrawn between July 2011 and July 2012

“ If  we are going to start anywhere with saying how our federal tax dollars should be used for a nutrition program its common sense that people should not be allowed to purchase soda” said Michelle Simon.

Simon wrote the book, Appetite for Profit. It focused on the national debate over the growing public health crisis caused by poor diet

Simon says retailers are the ones who can’t live without food stamps and she expects them to battle.

“Wal-Mart sells all kinds of products and they want to make sure that SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) dollars keep flowing through their stores.” Said Simon

Wal-Mart did not respond to repeated attempts for comment, but the Missouri Grocers Association is not shying away and is working to defeat Sater’s bill.

Even if it passes, Shaul doesn’t think it will change anything because the USDA would need to grant a waiver to Missouri.

In the past the USDA would not allow waivers on laws with language like Sater’s bill.

What do you think about this issue?

Let News 4’s Chris Nagus know on his KMOV Facebook page.

 

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