Missouri state legislators want to tighten the rules for how food stamps can be spent in that state.
Rick Brattin has sponsored legislation that would ban using taxpayer dollars to buy "cookies, chips, energy drinks, soft drinks, seafood or steak." The current system allows the funds to spent on anything with a nutrition label.
The formal title of the federal food stamp program is Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, but the Department of Agriculture, which administers it, has shown little interest in making sure the program provides for nutrition.
Obesity and related ailments like diabetes are now most common in poor communities, and are among the most serious — and expensive to taxpayers — health challenges. That means taxpayers are paying once to buy soda for the poor, and paying again for the health problems that result.
National debate over Brattin's bill has focused on the "seafood or steak" component, with liberals saying that seafood and steak are healthy and that the language could include canned tuna and low-grade beef cuts.
The Agriculture Department has refused to release data from bar codes showing how many times each type of product is bought with SNAP cards.
And convenience stores, soda and junk food manufacturers have spent millions hiring K Street lobbyists to make sure they can continue to profit off the program.
Liberals say the stamps are seldom spent on junk food and hardly ever spent on luxuries.
But those critics may dwell in wealthy neighborhoods and have little contact with the program on the ground. And as liberal politicians and academics have said that the program is primarily used for healthy meals, those on the front lines of the program — clerks at stores where food stamps are spent — have said that couldn't be further from the truth.
Days of monitoring food stamp transactions in D.C. by the Washington Examiner found that virtually all purchases were for soda and snacks like Ho-Hos and Little Debbies.
Out of hundreds of transactions, only one person bought bread, and no one bought vegetables.
No one was observed buying lobster or filet mignon, either — though a nearby seafood mart that specialized in lobster did advertise that it accepted the stamps.