On Tuesday, Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio urged Congress to amend the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). He advised this via “unequivocally excluding” junk food and sugary beverages, aiming to tackle the nation’s obesity epidemic and diminish medical expenses.
Proposed Bill Aims to Exclude Sodas, Desserts from SNAP
In an op-ed published this week in the Wall Street Journal, Rubio announced his intention to propose legislation that would encourage SNAP recipients to opt for more nutritious food alternatives.
According to Rubio, his bill would render sodas and pre-made desserts ineligible for SNAP benefits. In contrast, the federal assistance program would advocate for healthier options, encompassing milk, pure fruit juice, protein sources, fresh produce, and oatmeal.
A 2016 study from the United States Department of Agriculture disclosed that in SNAP households, a mere “20 cents out of each dollar was assigned to items such as desserts, sweetened drinks, candy, salty snacks, and sugar.”
Just 40 cents per dollar was devoted to purchasing products like meat, milk, eggs, fruits, vegetables, and bread.
Over the next decade the federal SNAP program (food stamps) will spend $240 billion of your taxpayer money on junk food https://t.co/w01X4dCRKc
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) May 8, 2023
Rubio’s op-ed underscored “in the upcoming decade, taxpayers are anticipated to expend $240 billion on junk food, with a staggering $60 billion allocated exclusively to soda.”
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates over 40% of U.S. adults are obese, while around half are afflicted with diabetes or prediabetes.
Rubio Advocates for SNAP Reform To Combat Health Crises
Rubio further elaborated:
“These diseases are not only debilitating, but also exorbitantly costly, incurring hundreds of billions of dollars in medical expenses annually. The fact that SNAP contributes to their proliferation is morally reprehensible, irresponsible, and indefensible.”
He argued his forthcoming bill would introduce “common-sense” reforms to SNAP “without incurring additional expenses and, ultimately, reducing medical costs.”
Marco Rubio pushes for SNAP benefits to ‘explicitly exclude’ junk food, sodas to curb obesity crisis, reduce medical costs https://t.co/QGlEcUG075
— TheBlaze (@theblaze) May 10, 2023
The senator maintained if junk food and sugary beverages were no longer eligible for SNAP benefits, retailers would be motivated to offer healthier alternatives.
Rubio emphasized his proposed legislation transcends partisan lines, citing that former agriculture secretaries from the Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama administrations agreed “neglecting nutrition is, in a very real sense, causing the death of a thousand Americans daily.”
Rubio expressed his intention to collaborate with one of the aforementioned former secretaries, Tom Vilsack, in reforming SNAP benefits. In 2018, Vilsack urged lawmakers to “formally designate diet quality as a central SNAP objective.”
Rubio acknowledged, like all proposals in Washington, his initiative faces opposition. However, he emphasized, “There is nothing compassionate or responsible about using taxpayer money to finance empty calories that exacerbate health crises.”