Food stamp recipients in New York State should not be able to use their benefits for high-end or non-essential food items, according to a new bill from a Senator Patty Ritchie of St. Lawrence County, New York.
Ritchie’s bill, introduced in the state senate on Wednesday, February 17, aims to restrict the types of groceries that can be purchased through New York’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. The bill names a number of “luxury food items” that should be off limits to those on food stamps, including lobster, certain cuts of steak, energy drinks, and “decorated cakes.”
A single-person household qualifies for $194 in benefits per month, or less than $7 a day, according to the USDA. A four-person home qualifies for $649 a month, or $5.40 per person per day.
Citing the country’s obesity epidemic, Ritchie — a Republican — portrayed the bill as an attempt to “help low-income consumers make wise and healthy food choices.”
The controversial bill, which has been criticized by Democrats in the senate, is not the first of its kind.
Last spring, Missouri legislator Rick Brattin proposed a similar anti-surf and turf bill, saying, “I have seen people purchasing filet mignons and crab legs with their EBT cards. When I can't afford it on my pay, I don't want people on the taxpayer’s dime to afford those kinds of foods either.”
Brattin, who, as a state legislator is paid by taxpayer money, was criticized by opponents of the bill for a tone-deaf portrayal of the poor as taking advantage of limited welfare resources.
But Ritchie’s bill is not likely to fare well once it gets to the state assembly, which is controlled by Democrats. “Our food-stamp system is set up for people that do not have enough access to food to be able to get food,” Jeremy Saunders, a director for Vocal New York, an advocacy group for low income New Yorkers, told Lohud. “This is a Republican attempt to make it appear that poor people use tax dollars to buy steak and lobster.”