DHEC meeting regarding proposed changes to SNAP benefits
COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -
"You can't just say, 'We're going to take away cookies," said Jessica Grant. "We're going to take away doughnuts and that's just going to make everyone healthy and fight obesity."
Like many of the community members who spoke at a meeting Thursday night, Grant said mandating which foods can be bought with SNAP benefits is not going to fix obesity. She said it starts with education, exercise and health insurance.
"Let's fight obesity," she said. "Okay. But nobody wants to make sure that I have health care so I can go to the doctor so my doctor can educate me about obesity."
More than 875,000 people receive federal food stamps in South Carolina. As of February, 66,000 of them live in Richland County. Last month, Governor Nikki Haley and health leaders proposed trying to curb obesity by limiting the number of fatty foods allowed to be bought with food stamps.
DHEC is holding public forums across the state to see if there's public support for the plan, and, if so, which foods should be cut.
"What makes the most people sick in South Carolina?" asked DHEC Director Catherine Templeton. "What, if we prevent it, would save the state the most money in treatment in South Carolina? What's best for South Carolina? What should be paying attention to? Guess what the answer is? All three of them: obesity, obesity, obesity."
Obesity is a problem compounded by many factors. And it's a problem that not only affects people on SNAP.
For Sue Singleton, a mother of three, cost outweighs the fear of obesity.
"You go to the store and you cannot buy healthy," she said. "You buy cheap."
Sue Singleton said it's a struggle to buy the necessities so healthy is not usually an option for her.
"I go to the store and literally tear up because no, I can't buy this. No, I can't buy that," she said. "It's too much money. So, what do I feed them? The cheap stuff."
Democratic State Rep. Chandra Dillard of Greenville was among several lawmakers who spoke out against the changes.
"Making changes to the SNAP program to me is like using a hammer to kill a gnat," she said. "I don't believe it's going to work."
"What we would have liked to seen is conversations with SNAP beneficiaries about first and foremost, 'Do you think that's a good idea?'" said State Rep. Gilda Cobb Hunter of Orangeburg County.
"When we talk about nutritional value, talk about the nutritional value that comes from not starving," said Richland County Democratic Rep. Todd Rutherford. "When you talk about banning foods, ban them for people like me first and then start with the people who are on SNAP."
Rutherford echoed the sentiments of many in the audience. If obesity does not just plague those on SNAP benefits, why not have a plan to help everyone else too and not simply target those who are getting federal assistance?
Another issue brought up at the meeting: food deserts, the lack of convenient grocery stores in many areas where residents are on SNAP.
Residents attending the meeting want DHEC and other health officials to find other ways to fight obesity than telling those with limited resources what to eat.
There is another meeting in Greenville on April 18th.
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