EL PASO, Texas - The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP, or food stamps is meant to alleviate hunger and malnutrition and allow low-income households the opportunity to afford a more nutritious diet.
While food products that contain alcohol or tobacco products are not eligible for purchase, soft drinks, candy, cookies, snack crackers and ice cream are eligible items.
A recent study cited by the USDA says SNAP households use 20 percent of their benefits to buy items like soft drinks, potato chips and candy.
Should people be able to buy snacks high in fat or sugary drinks with SNAP benefits?
"I think it's a bad thing because they should put some type of restriction on the card where they can only buy healthy food," a grocery shopper said. "Because I have seen people take advantage of the system where they have their carts full of cookies, pizza and soda when people like us that work hard and don't qualify for it, should also have the same benefits."
Another shopper, Britney Creel, also said SNAP benefits shouldn't include junk food.
"I don't agree with it," Creel said. "I think that they should put some limits on it because it is supposed to be nutritional, so they shouldn't be allowed to buy those kinds of things."
A USDA study conducted back in 2007 states, "Federal dietary guidance uniformly applies to the total diet – there are no widely accepted standards to judge the “healthfulness” of individual foods."
The USDA also stated any change to this definition would require action by Congress.
Congress had considered placing limits on the types of food that can be purchased with program benefits but has concluded designating foods as "luxury or non-nutritious" would be administratively costly and burdensome.