Bill would ban Food Assistance families from junk food buys - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Bill would ban Food Assistance families from junk food buys


WATERLOO (KWWL) -- Many of us love to eat junk food, everything from French fries to processed foods.  But if a bill being considered by the Iowa legislature goes through, junk food items would no longer be allowed to be purchased with food stamps.      


It's no secret our country is facing an obesity epidemic.  But many food stamp families say forcing them to buy only healthy foods isn't the solution.


Juneal Stuva is a single mom with a special needs child who requires constant care, making it hard for her to hold down a job.  She relies on food stamps to help feed 4-year-old Channer.  And his health problems require a unique diet.


"My little guy has a feeding disturbance.  So I'm sorry, popsicles are on my list.  Yep, it's junk food.  But having a popsicle wakes up his mouth to teach him how to chew," said Stuva.


So Stuva is concerned about a bill being considered by an Iowa House sub-committee that would ban families from purchasing anything considered junk food.  However, the Iowa Department of Human Services, which splits administrative duties with the federal government for the food stamp program, says such a measure will have a hard time becoming law, since waiver requests haven't gone through in the past.


"Others have done the same thing and the USDA has said you'll need an act of Congress to change the law.  And several efforts have been made to do just that, and it's been concluded that it would be an administrative nightmare," said Roger Munns, DHS spokesman.


That's mostly because there's uncertainty about who would decide exactly what qualifies as junk food.  And Stuva says there are far more important issues, like the budget and healthcare, for government leaders to address.


"These are all things you better look at before you start dictating what people buy," said Stuva.


Now the bill being considered by the statehouse asks for a waiver that would allow food stamp restrictions.  And if it's approved in Des Moines, DHS says it will sign a letter requesting the change to the USDA, which manages the program.  But it appears unlikely that the proposal will even make it that far.


DHS has recently opened access for food stamp users to purchase items from farmer's markets. And it's hoped that more educational programs can be implemented to help families choose affordable, healthy options without mandating what they can and cannot buy.

KWWL Reporter:  Kera Mashek

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