FLORENCE, S.C. (WPDE) - A state agency is considering changing the foods people on government assistance can buy with the funds they are given. The Department of Social Services wants to request a waiver from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to change the eligible food list for those in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP. The purpose of the move would be to help SNAP recipients eat healthy and avoid obesity.
South Carolina's weight problem is well-documented. Two out of three people in the state are overweight or obese. DSS wants to start with those on SNAP to combat the growing problem.
"I will not always be on food stamps. That is not my life's plan. But while I am, I don't want somebody to tell me what I can do with them," explained Susan Singleton. She shared her comments at a public forum in Florence Thursday hosted by the Department of Health and Environmental Control. She also told the crowd she "prays that it fails here."
The opposition wasn't just from those like Singleton who are on SNAP. The business community also has a stake in seeing things stay the same.
"Obesity is a complex social problem with many causes, and singling out any one food type or beverage as a cause is not an effective way to encourage healthy and active lifestyles," said Frank Campbell, a Coca-Cola bottler.
"What is healthy? A vegan would say chicken and meat is not good for the body," added Kenneth Cosgrove. "SNAP is ten percent of sales in some inner-city locations. A loss of ten percent of sales in a rural country store would mean a ten percent reduction in hours for a front line employee."
Others offered an alternative. According to State Representative Terry Alexander, the community would be better served by community gardens, food co-ops and farmers markets, rather than limiting the food choices of those in the SNAP program.
"If you really want to help them in their nutritious lifestyle, then do so by making sure that the communities where they live are served with stores that provide nutritious foods for them," said Rep. Alexander. He went on to say, "There is no evidence food stamp participation contributes to poor diet or obesity."
Everyone's comments at the meeting were recorded and will be shared with DSS.
If you weren't able to attend the meeting but would like to make comment about the proposed changes you can make them online or email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-866-664-0483.
More than 878,000 South Carolinians participate in SNAP, receiving cash benefits of $1.4 billion per year, according to DHEC.
Governor Nikki Haley supports changing the list of foods SNAP recipients can receive. You can watch her comments here.