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Health Mind & Body
Educate, don't legislate, what we should eat
Tuesday, February 25, 2014 10:00 AM
Few would say that celery tastes better than barbecue potato chips ... that when given a choice they would grab a granola treat over a candy bar.
Few also would argue that they want government telling them what they can and cannot eat.
But, does government have that right if it is helping to pay for that food?
An Indiana Senate committee did the right thing last week by putting the brakes on Indiana House Bill 1351, which had sailed through the House 71-22.
One of the provisions stripped from the bill would have limited the use of SNAP - food stamp - benefits to those foods and drinks that have "sufficient nutritional value."
On the surface, this seems great - no more taxpayer dollars to support people buying chips, pop and other "junk foods" that can later create more medical bills. But this provision created more problems than it solved.
First, there was no guarantee the bill would have changed anything. SNAP is administered by the federal government, which would get the final say on whether there could be changes to the program.
Second, and of most concern, there would have been huge costs to the program and to any store that sells food and accepts SNAP benefits to determine what foods have "sufficient nutritional value" and categorize them as such.
That cost, no doubt, would have fallen onto taxpayers and shoppers.
Do we want our federal and state legislators - more than a few of them sporting a beer belly - taking on the burden of deciding the nutritional soundness of foods?
If the idea is to promote nutrition, rather than banning foods, the General Assembly should focus its efforts on supporting programs like cooking and nutrition classes.
Spending money to educate people about the long-term health costs of poor eating habits is a better investment than legislating against it.
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