FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami/AP) – A bill that would limit what items could be purchased with state welfare funds is making headway in the Florida Senate.

Currently, food stamps can be used to buy staples like milk, vegetables, fruits and meat. But they can also use them to buy sweets like cakes, cookies and Jell-O and snack foods like chips, something a state senator wants stopped.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Valrico, also wants to stop the use of other welfare funds, known as Temporary Assistance For Needy Families, at ATMs in casinos and strip clubs and anywhere out of state. The bill comes after reports that the debit cards welfare recipients now receive were used in those places, as well as locations in Las Vegas and the Virgin Islands in a small percentage of cases, but the state does not track what items were purchased.

The bill recently passed a committee. A companion bill in the state House companion is being considered by a subcommittee.

The bill would also require the state to launch a culturally sensitive campaign to educate people about the benefits of a nutritious diet. Supporters say it would help recipients follow healthy eating habits and prevent taxpayer funds from being used to purchase luxury foods like bakery cakes when they can whip up a cheaper box mix.

“Most individuals using public assistance dollars are using the funds to get by and to provide for their families. However, we should do what we can to prevent dollars intended to help Florida’s poorest families from being spent in the wrong places,” Storms said in a statement.

But critics say the government shouldn’t dictate what people eat.

“What I choose to ingest even though I may be on food stamps, that’s at my discretion. I don’t need government telling me what I can and cannot purchase,” said Rep. Gwyndolen Clarke-Reed, a Pompano Beach Democrat who voted in committee against the bill (SB 1658).

Clarke-Reed said the bill is demeaning and invasive and she worries the education campaign would imply to “minorities and low-income folks that they’re not intelligent enough to make selections on the foods they want.”

The state Department of Children and Families, which oversees the food stamp program, would have to get federal approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to implement the bill if it passes, which may be tricky since no other states have been successful. The federal government spent nearly $5 billion last year to help about 3 million Floridians, as an increasing number are relying on the program in a sour economy. The average monthly benefit in the state is about $140 per person, according to the USDA.

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Comments (15)
  1. Denis says:

    Too much fraud happening in this program and everyone knows it.

  2. gary says:

    My job has me inside customers homes. Recently I listened to a woman complain that she did not get enough food stamps to feed her children. It was 9:30 AM and her son was drinking orange soda and eating Cheese Doodles for breakfast. Meanwhile her husband was polishing the 22 inch spinner rims on his car while listening to the high dollar stereo. If you have to accept public assistance to feed your family, you should make it APPEAR that you’re not ripping off the system. “Demeaning and invasive?” Too bad, they should also be drug tested-I’m sure that would be an invasion of their privacy

    1. EdInFlorida says:

      .who will pay for all this drug testing you want? Who will pay to support the added bureaucracy that will create? You people are morons.

      1. gary says:

        A urine analysis costs $23, if you stop 1 druggie from abusing the system you’re money ahead. You don’t need any added bureaucracy, send the applicant to a local lab, they send the results to the state. I’m sure YOU would create a new position just to handle drug testing – proving that YOU ARE THE MORON

  3. daimen bokk says:

    Drug testing food stamp recipients only benefits drug testing companies, and costs the taxpayer. It has been PROVEN that drug use among food stamp recipients is so low the testing is useless. If you know of fraud report it. That was probably not a husband, but the baby daddy. People who take the time to get food stamps are not using it for drugs. There are much easier ways to get $200.00 a month than try to turn $200.00 (a months worth of Food Stamps) into 50 to 150 in cash.

    1. Frappacino says:

      Really, who cares? I agree with you. I get Food Stamps. I’m sick and getting sicker and even though I do buy some “junk food”, majority of my stamps do go into eating healthier. Alot of senators and congress in Florida are always changing things making it even harder to recieve the necessary help they deserve. I know some people who are recieving Social Security and they are able to work, but me on the other hand, is taking alot of medication and can’t even receive my V.A. benefits or Social Security and now that my atty’s are working, its taking even longer and I’m still getting sicker.

    2. gary says:

      The instance I was refering to, he WAS the husband, but if he was just the “baby daddy” a.k.a. sperm donor, why would that make a difference. If you’re on public assistance its time to step to the plate and assume your responsibilities. Drug testing is MANDATORY at many jobs, it should be here to ensure it isn’t just low but NONEXISTENT. Its not my job to report fraud, the system has to be self-policing, someone is being paid a salary to make sure it isn’t abused.

  4. Cornelius E. Williams says:

    It’s about damn time, also eating out needs to be added to the list. Women with husbans need to be cut in half.

  5. Brad Canelo says:

    This lawmakers haven’t no shame! How dare them try to tell people what to EAT! INDEED, food is food, some aren’t just healthier than others…THAT is WHY they call IT FOOD STAMPS!!!

    1. gary says:

      Good thing crack isn’t sold at Publix, you’d think it was OK to buy it with Food Stamps.

  6. Connie says:

    They need to come up with a way that the stamps cann’t be sold.

  7. Need Compromise says:

    ” It has been PROVEN that drug use among food stamp recipients is so low the testing is useless”

    This statement is not exactly true. When drug testing was implemented, applications for welfare dropped 50% . It makes you wonder if the folks who dropped out of welfare did so because they had illegal drugs in their system and therefore did not want to get drug tested.

    On the otherhand, it is awful when innocent children are suffering.

  8. Josefina says:

    Some people have kids and birthday parites for their kids. So I don’t feel it’s fair to these people that they should be restrained from buying these foods. Also, sometimes the schools request that the kids bring cupcakes, chips and sodas for festivals so how are the parents going to confront this situation?

    1. Raul says:

      If you can’t feed them don’t have kids.

  9. poorwhiteboy says:

    What will the FAT BABY MAMA”s do now? JUST BREED MORE>