CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Limits could be put on how food stamps are spent in West Virginia with a bill that’s pending at the State Capitol.
Sen. Ron Stollings (D-Boone, 7) said the proposal would allow West Virginia to apply for a waiver from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to prevent food stamps, now called SNAP benefits for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, from being used for purchases of soda pop and other sugary drinks.
“We’re taking a bite of the apple here by not being able to buy pop, Mello Yello, things like that,” said Stollings. “This could have a behavior changing and, I think, a positive health outcome.”
Stollings, who is a doctor, said such a step would make sense in West Virginia for health and financial reasons.
“We have an oral health problem and we have an obesity problem,” he said. “Basically, we’re paying for this twice. Federal tax dollars pay for pop (through SNAP) and that causes us to be overweight and have poor dentition and then Medicaid costs then follow obesity.”
Up to now, the USDA has approved no such waivers for SNAP in other states, but Stollings said he thinks West Virginia could serve as a good pilot project location, especially with an effort that is narrowly focused on limiting sugary drink purchases.
Stollings is the chairman of the Senate Health and Human Resources which has not yet addressed SB 262.
The 2014 Regular Legislative Session continues through Saturday, March 8.