Tennessee lawmaker: No food stamps for ice cream, sodas

A Tennessee lawmaker has introduced legislation seeking to ban the use of food stamps to buy items without nutritional value. (Veganbaking / CC BY-SA 2.0)

UPDATE: Sheila Butt announced on Tuesday that she is withdrawing the bill. Read more about that here.


CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WTVC) - In Tennessee, more than 1 million people depend on benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to put food on their tables. Rep. Shelia Butt, R-Columbia, introduced a bill that would stop people from using those benefits, know as SNAP or food stamps, to buy foods high in calories, sugar and fat.

Some people in our area think the bill is a good idea.

"Milk and food items is fine," said Alan Rogers. "That's what they're for. Just to sustain life. All this other stuff is extra stuff."

Walter Little says he can see both sides.

"It's a two-way street," said Little. "It's a good idea health wise - but a lot of people don't want to be told what they should eat and what they shouldn't eat. I'm 69 years old. But I jog, I work out and I try to eat healthy. But this is my belief. And I would hate to force my ideas on someone else."

The bill says food "without any nutritional value" would be blocked. People would not be able to use their benefits for things like soda, ice cream, cookies, candy and cake.

Rep. Butt also proposes establishing a list of banned foods that would be made with help from the Department of Heath and Human Services using recommendations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"All the public pays for food stamps and I think there ought to be rules on it," said Rogers. "There has to be. It just can't be wide open."

If the bill becomes a law, it will take effect in July.

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