New Bill in NY Would Ban Buying of Lobster, Steak, and Junk Food with Food Stamps

A view of the Capitol Building in Albany. (Photo: Joe Larese / The Journal News)
A view of the Capitol Building in Albany. (Photo: Joe Larese / The Journal News)

A state lawmaker wants to block the use of food stamps for “luxury” items like high-end steaks, lobster and junk food.

Sen. Patty Ritchie, R-Oswegatchie, St. Lawrence County, introduced a bill Wednesday that would further restrict the types of purchases that can be made through the state’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly referred to as the food stamp program.

Ritchie’s bill would target what she calls “luxury food items,” blocking food stamp recipients from using their benefits to purchase certain foods that are either high-end or not nutritious.The legislation would require the state Office of Temporarily Disability Assistance to come up with a list of prohibited items.

But the bill’s memo lays out some examples: lobster, certain steaks, decorated cakes and energy drinks, to name a few.

“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,” according to the bill memo.

Restrictions on the type of purchases that can be made with welfare benefits have been popular among conservatives, including in New York, where Republican lawmakers have pushed to restrict where benefit recipients can take out cash with their EBT cards.

But such restrictions have been opposed by Democrats in the Legislature, who say they unfairly target the low-income people who rely on public benefits. So the bill likely doesn’t have much of a future in the Democrat-controlled Assembly, where it hasn’t yet been introduced.

Jeremy Saunders, co-executive director of Vocal New York, a group that advocates for low-income New Yorkers, said the bill is “ridiculous.”

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SOURCE: Jon Campbell