Some state senators want to prohibit Gov. Nikki Haley's staff from buying junk food for the Governor's Mansion. The Senate's state budget plan includes a proviso, or one-year law in the budget, that prohibits the use of taxpayers' money to buy junk food for the governor and her family at the mansion, or for functions held there. The governor would be able to buy prohibited items with her own money.
Sen. Darrell Jackson, D-Columbia, got the proviso put in the budget because Gov. Haley wants to prohibit South Carolina residents who are on food stamps, officially called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, from using taxpayers' money to buy junk food. It's part of her plan to combat obesity in the state.
Members of the Senate Finance Committee decided that if it's wrong to use taxpayers' money to buy junk food for those on food stamps, it's also wrong to use taxpayers' money to buy it at the Governor's Mansion, so the approved the proviso. The full Senate would still have to go along, and then the full House would also have to approve it.
But Dr. Ed Frongillo, a researcher in the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina, says there's no research to back up the contention that banning junk food for those on food stamps will cut down on obesity.
"It may be worth the effort, but in order to know whether it's worth the effort, then there needs to be explicit research, which shows us and tests out what actually happens when you do that," he says.
He says one problem with the idea is that food stamps provide only about 30 percent of the food budget for those enrolled.
"That means that people are providing some of their own funds from other sources for food," he says. "And so if putting restrictions on what you can use the SNAP coupons for, if that simply means that people then substitute other dollars for those dollars in order to buy certain foods that are restricted, then you don't gain anything."
Governor Haley was in Texas Monday for a conference on offshore technology, but her spokesman, Rob Godfrey, said of the proposed ban on junk food at the mansion, "The governor is trying to tackle the obesity epidemic in South Carolina - if State Sen. Jackson wants to play games with it, that's his business, but we're going to keep fighting to help South Carolinians get healthy."
In order to prohibit people on food stamps from buying junk food, the state will have to get a waiver from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That's considered unlikely because other states that have asked for waivers have been denied.
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