ROCK HILL, S.C. -
By the end of the year, South Carolina may take steps to restrict food stamp purchases to healthy foods only.
After a series of four public meetings across the state, D-HEC, the Department of Health and Environmental Control, is recommending that changes be made to the state's SNAP program -- SNAP stands for supplemental nutrition assistance program, which used to be known as food stamps.
In 2012, more than 875,000 people were on the program statewide, and the government paid out just over a billion dollars in benefits in South Carolina alone.
In Rock Hill, Stephanie Marshall and her daughter depend on the program.
"It's helping me a lot because I'm only working part time right now," Marshall said.
She receives a plastic card, like a credit card, that's automatically loaded with her benefit money every three months. She can spend the money on food items only, but the food includes anything that's not cooked.
Marshall understands why the state is pushing to limit what foods people can buy on food stamps, including sugary snacks and drinks.
"People are getting too heavy, or having high blood pressure, or diabetes, or anything like that. They're trying to cut down on that," she said.
On Monday, the director of D-HEC sent a letter to the director of the Department of Social Services which runs SNAP, recommending the changes.
It would require people getting benefits to buy healthier foods, but it's not specific other than a general ban on cookies, some drinks and candy.
Marshall said the idea to push for healthier foods is a good one, but it may not be practical for people in her situation.
"That's probably a good, healthy way to do it, but I don't think that'll work out too well because I got a child and she does like stuff to snack on," she said.
State Rep. Gary Simrill of Rock Hill said he supports the changes.
"I think it's a good directive if we look at the fact that we have more and more children with diabetes, and I think it'll help with medical costs down the road."
Simrill said the government shouldn't tell people how to spend their own money as New York City tried to do this year with a ban on large sodas.
However, he said people living off taxpayer money can benefit from proposed restrictions.
"This is a directive that says if you're going to be living off food stamps, at least we seek to have as healthy a diet for you as possible," he said.
DSS officials in Columbia tell Channel 9 the plan is far from a done deal. They hope to submit a request to the federal government by December.
Several other states have also requested waivers to ban junk foods in government assistance programs, but they were denied.
This story is getting a lot of attention on our social media channels.
Scottie said, "Excellent!!! They should not be able to buy anything that is not healthy!"
Kati said, " I don't mind a ban on soda and candy, but cookies and cakes are used by many families as treats, rewards, etc."
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