Bill Would Allow Food Stamp Recipients to Buy Vitamins
A provision in the Senate agriculture bill (S 1628) would allow food stamp recipients to use their benefits to purchase vitamin and mineral supplements, the AP/BaltimoreSun reports. Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) inserted the provision into the bill, which in addition to its farm provisions "overhaul[s] ... nutrition programs." The committee approved the bill on Nov. 15. Committee spokesperson Seth Boffeli said, "You can use food stamps to buy potato chips, but you can't use them to buy multivitamins for your children." Currently, at least 22 states provide vitamin supplements through their Medicaid programs, and all states are required to provide prenatal vitamins. Herbal supplements such as St. John's Wort or gingko biloba would not be permitted under the measure.
Nutrition scientists say they are worried that the measure would "substitute supplements for nutritious food," and the produce industry "is concerned that the plan will cut into sales of fruits and vegetables." In addition, Teresa Moorman, an outreach worker for a California food bank, said, "I don't think [food stamp recipients] could buy vitamins and food and have enough. They can barely buy food with the food stamps." A 1999 study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that "there is no need to give [food stamp recipients] supplements" because "the poor have similar vitamin and mineral intakes compared with the rest of the population." The agriculture bill could go before the full Senate as early as this week (AP/Baltimore Sun, 11/27).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.