With few exceptions, food stamp recipients in the CalFresh Program can buy virtually anything edible at the grocery store, even junk food. Now a lawmaker wants taxpayers to stop footing the bill for unhealthy eating.
State Sen. Mike Rubio, D-Bakersfield, is proposing to ban food stamps from being used to purchase things like chips, donuts and soda. In counties were it is allowed, he does not want benefits spent at fast food restaurants either.
"It moves towards a position where the government should give people what they need rather than what they want," Rubio said.
Rubio hopes to curb the obesity problem. Rubio says many food stamp recipients end up with medical problems from eating poorly and taxpayers are likely to also pay for their care.
But opponents say it is not fair to target just one group.
"We don't think that we should just be singling out low-income families, or the CalFresh Program, for that kind of attention," Western Center on Law and Poverty spokesperson Mike Herald said. "Everyone in society, this is a societal problem, not a low-income problem."
The idea, though, is not unheard of.
Rubio says the ban would be difficult to administer. The Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC) already limits purchases to healthy foods.
Still, food stamp recipients think limiting their spending is ludicrous.
"It's crazy because you're telling me what I can and cannot spend my food stamps on? If I'm the type of person that wants some chips, I should be able to buy chips with food stamps," Tamara Beverly said.
"They need to not make that a law because it's not fair to the kids," Adriell Coleman said. "Some kids, that's their only way of having any type of money."
Other states have tried to implement similar spending limits, but the federal government has never granted the waiver because of the cost to create a system that can weed out junk food.