The question of whether those who use food stamps and government assistance programs should be able to purchase junk food and other unhealthy items has long been a hot button issue.

But, a newly proposed Arkansas bill passes, it will make it so those receiving benefits in that state can only purchase healthy items.

State Rep. Mary Bentley told Arkansas state legislation that they should petition the USDA to only allow recipients to purchase certain foods with their benefits.

Bentley says the obesity statistics in Arkansas are shocking and that something needs to be done in order to prevent further health issues, especially amongst the elderly and uninsured. According to the CDC, over a third of people in the state are obese, which is far higher than most states in the US.

Almost a half a million people from Arkansas receive food stamps.

Bentley further commented on her reasoning for the plan:

“The number one thing purchased with food stamps is soft drinks. I mean that is a serious problem, we look at the detriment to bones, increase in diabetes with soft drinks.

We have a large amount of food stamps in our state, but yet we have the highest rate of senior hunger and hunger for kids. So obviously, the food isn’t headed in the right direction. I want it to be used for food at the table and to feed kids.”

Though the USDA has yet to approve something of this nature for any state because of the revamping of the program it would entail, Bentley is optimistic that Arkansas could be the first. The issue will be discussed and debated as part of the new legislative session which will begin after the new year.

Though Bentley remains hopefuly, in 2013, the USDA failed to grant waivers to the state of Maine who requested that snack and soda items be off the menu for those receiving SNAP benefits. Therefore, it is difficult to tell if they will comply with Arkansas’ request.

But many, like Arkansas resident Cynthia Pahmiyer, feel that this would be an excellent idea. Pahmiyer stated:

“All my life I’ve been behind people while they get chips and sods and candy and their kids grab those lunchables and ice cream and pile their carts full of junk food and just waste our money.”

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