COLUMBIA, SC (WCSC) - State Representative Bakari Sellers has proposed a "friendly challenge" to Governor Nikki Haley and DSS Director Lillian Koller.
In response to Haley's call to eliminate unhealthy foods from the state's food stamp program, Rep. Sellers challenged the two state leaders to join him in eating only healthy foods on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) funds for one week.
Sellers said he would shop for healthy alternatives in his district, which contains parts of Bamberg, Barnwell, and Colleton counties.
"While the Governor's idea sounds good on the surface, poverty and obesity is not caused just by unhealthy foods, but rather expenses and access to healthy alternatives," said Rep. Sellers. "We don't have Whole Foods in rural South Carolina, nor does the farmer's market accept food stamps."
"If the governor and Director Koller accept my challenge, they will quickly see that struggling South Carolinians aren't eating unhealthily because they want to," said Sellers. "Sometimes it is hard to understand the plight of the poor until you walk a mile in their shoes."
Sellers points to what he says is a more-reasonable solution to curb obesity in South Carolina, healthy school lunch bill that would ban sugary, high-fat foods from school lunch programs and remove calorie-loaded snacks and soft drinks from school vending machines.
"Obesity in South Carolina starts in the schools," said Sellers. "If Governor Haley truly wants to fight this epidemic, I would ask for her support in helping pass my healthy school lunch bill."
Sellers said he was anxiously awaiting Haley's response on his challenge.
Judging by the following response from Haley's spokesman, Rob Godfrey, the governor is not amused:
"What the governor and state officials have done is challenge all South Carolinians to be healthier. It's a serious issue, not just another political opportunity for State Rep. Sellers to exploit for personal gain - when he implies that SNAP participants are unable to make healthy choices, he insults them. This is an opportunity for leaders like State Rep. Sellers to work with the governor, who grew up in his district, on fighting obesity, the No. 1 killer of South Carolinians."
Sellers responded to the governor's response Friday afternoon:
"I'm very surprised that Governor Haley has rejected my challenge to live on a food stamp budget for a week. Once again we see that the Governor's rhetoric and actions are two entirely different things. It is disappointing that Governor Haley doesn't understand the problem; but it's even more disappointing that she is refusing to try and understand the problem."