New York State Sen. Patty Ritchie, a Republican of St. Lawrence County, introduced a bill that would restrict the types of purchases that can be made with food stamps in the Empire State. S6761
would prohibit the purchase of what she termed “luxury food items” by recipients of New York’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. These items would include expensive foods such as steak and lobster, or those believed to be less than nutritious. The legislation would call on the Office of Temporarily Disability Assistance to devise of list of banned goods. Ritchie has already listed some suggestions, including tasty crustaceans, certain cuts of steak, decorated cakes, and energy drinks, among others.
According to a memorandum attached to the bill, "At a time when our state and nation are struggling with an obesity epidemic, it is critically important that taxpayer-funded programs help low-income consumers make wise and healthy food choices." Republicans in the New York legislature have in the past pushed to delimit where food stamp recipients can cash their Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards.
Democrats oppose such measures, arguing that they are unduly directed against the poor who rely on public benefits. Currently, the New York state assembly is controlled by Democrats who have not yet given the bill a reading. Observers predict that it will not pass in the lower chamber. The state has restricted the use of such benefits in the past. Alcohol and tobacco cannot be purchased with EBT cards, in compliance with federal rules. Hot food and toiletries are also on the prohibited list. The amount in food benefits a single, child-less, individual can receive in food benefits can be as little as $194
, depending on income.