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Bid to curb junk food, soda on food stamps in Arkansas fails

by John Moritz | February 9, 2017 at 4:30 a.m.

Proposed legislation to prevent food-stamp recipients from using their benefits to purchase junk foods and soda died in a Senate committee Wednesday.

After the Arkansas Healthy Food Improvement Act, or House Bill 1035, passed the House last month, its sponsor, Rep. Mary Bentley, R-Perryville, said she expected a tougher fight in the upper chamber.

Asked about the fate of her bill, Bentley said lobbying by grocers -- who argued that the cost of implementation would fall on their stores -- and soft-drink manufacturers had sunk the measure.

After it was filed late last year, HB1035 became one of the most sponsored pieces of legislation heading into the regular legislative session, which started Jan. 9. Proponents said it would help cut obesity-related medical costs in Arkansas, one of the nation's most overweight states.

"I think they realized that they weren't going to be able to stop it in the House. They focused all their energy down there in the Senate, the lobbyists did," Bentley said.

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In a voice vote, the Senate Public Health Welfare and Labor Committee balked at recommending approval of Bentley's bill.

"There were some feelings on the committee that [the bill] would just kind of slap at people that were needing a hand up," Sen. Eddie Cheatham, D-Crossett, said after the meeting. "There may be some abuse in what children are eating, but the majority of these people that get these cards are really disadvantaged."

Bentley said it was unlikely she could revive her bill by amending it. Instead, she said she would look at different methods other states have taken to reduce unhealthful purchases through the food-stamp program, known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Arkansas' congressional delegation also could seek changes to the federally funded program, and Bentley said she will file a resolution asking the members to do so.

A Section on 02/09/2017










Print Headline: Bid to curb junk food, soda on food stamps fails

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