Public weighs in on possible changes to SNAP food list

NORTH CHARLESTON (WCSC) - According to the state's department of health and environmental control or DHEC, two-thirds of South Carolinians are overweight or obese.

"South Carolina is not only one of the most obese states, it's also one of the most malnourished states," explains Catherine Templeton, the director of DHEC. "So, that immediately concludes that we're eating junk."

That's why DHEC and the Department of Social Services are looking to make some healthy changes to SNAP, the state's food stamp program, which is federally subsidized. Both agencies say they want to eliminate foods high in sugar and fat from the list.

"I do agree that some people abuse SNAP benefits, but from my experience I use it for what it's supposed to be used for," says Joquette Ricks, a SNAP participant for two years.

DHEC says this is part of the solution. Health education is also key. They plan to organize healthy-eating seminars at schools, businesses, and events.

"It's not going to happen overnight," says Karla Beckwith, a registered dietician with DHEC. "You're probably looking at several years to see the results of this, but we would see lower weights, healthier children and healthier children leads to healthier adults."

While some parents say they're ok with a more nutritional food list, others say it's not up to DHEC or DSS.

"I know that trying to put a limit on the SNAP benefits would be beneficial to many people, but in the end it's still their decision."

DHEC's director says federal dollars come with conditions.

"I think people should buy whatever they want to buy, but when the taxpayers are paying for that and then the taxpayers are subsidizing the medicaid costs, and obesity costs hundreds-of-billions of dollars, I don't think it makes a lot of sense," says Templeton.

According to DHEC, more than 870,000 South Carolinians use SNAP, receiving $1.4-billion per year in benefits.

DSS says they will ask the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a waiver sometime this year. That waiver is permission to make the changes to SNAP's list of eligible food items.