- Unbeliebable: White House turns Bieber petition response into immigration screed
- Obama signs law denying Iran ambassador’s visa, but says law is ‘advisory’
- Mich. judge to laughing convicted killer: ‘I hope you die in prison’
- Man charged in Kansas City-area highway shootings
- Keystone XL pipeline still on hold after State Dept. decision
- Fla. man charged with killing 16-month-old son to play Xbox undisturbed
- Drones from the deep: Pentagon develops ocean-floor attack robots
- Michigan mayor slaps back atheists’ try to erect ‘reason station’ at city hall
- PHILLIPS: Where is the conservative establishment?
- 7.5-magnitude earthquake shakes southern Mexico
Congressman wants oversight of food stamp program
Responding to complaints that food stamps are widely spent on junk food and that the Agriculture Department makes no attempt to even track, much less restrict, what kind of food is being purchased, a Pennsylvania Republican will introduce legislation Friday called the SNAP Transparency Act to create an online, searchable database that uses bar codes to break down how many taxpayer dollars in food stamps are spent on each individual product, from Kit Kat bars to whole milk.
“It’s downright irresponsible that such a massive government program — which cost the taxpayers $80 billion in 2012 alone — is subject to virtually no oversight,” Rep. Tom Marino, the bill’s sponsor, said in a statement. “There’s no sense in establishing parameters or guidelines for these programs if we do not have a system in place to ensure the program is operating efficiently and within its boundaries.”
Cards distributed through the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or food stamps, can be used to purchase anything with an ingredients label except alcohol, from candy and soda to steak and lobster.
Many corner stores approved to accept food stamps do not even sell any healthy offerings, making it impossible for their food stamp customers to get healthy food, The Washington Times found.
Obesity is a persistent problem in low-income communities, with 42 percent of residents of the District’s poorest ward overweight.
Yet, as The Times reported last year, the Agriculture Department refuses to release information on how much business individual stores do in food stamps — going so far as threatening jail time for those who reveal it — even though it acknowledges that 8 percent of food stamp dollars taken to inner-city corner stores are illegally converted to cash, which such data could help illuminate.
And even the government itself has no idea what kind of foods the stamps buy, even though the combination of electronic benefit cards and universal product codes make tracking it entirely feasible.
That makes it impossible to evaluate funding and other policy changes to the program, because it’s unclear whether the program is meeting its goals, according to nutrition advocates.
“Several potential reform plans currently exist, but it is difficult to have an informed discussion when we don’t know exactly what SNAP benefits are being spent on,” the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine said.
The food stamp program costs $80 billion a year, but as lawmakers renew it with each farm bill, the lack of knowledge about what kinds of foods are bought, and at what prices, makes it impossible to make informed judgments about its efficacy.
The knowledge void has allowed candy, soda and convenience store companies to lobby vigorously to keep their items eligible for the program, arguing that they are rarely purchased with food stamps.
Susan Smith of the National Confectioners Association, a candy trade group, last year dismissed assertions that food stamp recipients commonly buy candy and soda as “anecdotal info,” while declining to call for the collection of statistics.
Mr. Marino’s office said if the numbers are made public, the candy and soda makers who lobby against restricting the food stamp program could well be vindicated — or proven wrong.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Luke Rosiak is a projects reporter on The Washington Times’ investigative team. He formerly covered lobbying and campaign finance for two watchdog groups as well as transportation for The Washington Post. Luke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Md. couple indicted in scheme to cheat SBA on minority contracts
- As federal agencies trim fat, contracts feed billions in profits to 59 companies
- Conflict of interest in $4 billion government minority program
- $4 billion program for disadvantaged businesses lacks oversight
- Maryland's minority-contracting program gets failing grade on 'graduation'
Latest Blog Entries
TWT Video Picks
Women losing coverage under Obamacare, too
- Scalia to students on high taxes: At a certain point, 'perhaps you should revolt'
- Former Ranger breaks silence on Pat Tillman death: I may have killed him
- Special Forces' suicide rates hit record levels casualties of 'hard combat'
- Feds approve powdered alcohol; 'Palcohol' available later this year
- Nancy Pelosi washes immigrants' feet in humble Holy Week act then promotes on Twitter
- Army goes to war with National Guard, seizes Apache attack helicopters
- U.S. Navy to turn seawater into jet fuel
- Harry Reid blasts Bundy ranch supporters as 'domestic terrorists'
- EDITORIAL: Mark Warner running scared?
- Inside China: Marine's comment on islands draws sharp Chinese response
Top 10 handguns in the U.S.