State lawmaker wants to ban use of EBT cards at fast-food restaurants

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

PHOENIX -- A state lawmaker is co-sponsoring a bill that would ban the use of EBT cards at fast-food restaurants for all cardholders.

Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, says right now there is a select group of Electronic Benefits Transfer recipients that is able to use state-funded assistance at fast-food joints.

"There's a specific group of people who are able to do that: the disabled, elderly and homeless," Townsend said.

House Bill 2051 would put an end to that, effectively banning the use of EBT cards outright at fast-food or quick-serve restaurants.

The representative says there are a couple of reasons behind the measure. The first is financial.

"It's just a luxury that we can't afford right now," Townsend said.

The second-year legislator says when families are having to cut back, one of the first things to go is eating out; it should be the same for the state given the current deficit.

"This is just not good stewardship of the state's money, of the people's money," she said.

In addition, the lawmaker says there is an obvious health concern here, too, when it comes to eating fast-food meals regularly.

Nutritionists from DeRosa Medical explained some of the nutritional problems with these meals to 3TV.

"They're just so high in fat. You have concerns about developing cardiovascular disease. They are very low in fiber, and the portion sizes are just out of control," said nutritionist Denise Coventry.

In fact, they were surprised to learn this was something the state food stamp equivalent program pays for, given the already vulnerable position many of those with access are in.

"Those are the people who probably need the most of the fresh fruits and vegetables, honestly," nutritionist Patrici O'Cheltree said.

Townsend agrees and said the combination of financial and health concerns will eventually add up.

"Where is that cost going to really hit us the most? It's going to be in Medicaid when we have to now treat their diseases because of the kinds of food that we're feeding them, allowing them to eat," Townsend said.

Some opponents, though, say often times for better or for worse, fast-food meals provide the only hot meal some people are able to get.

The East Valley lawmaker doesn't buy it.

"If a person is able to go to this fast-food restaurant around the corner, they should also be able to go into the DES cafeteria over there, which has much healthier food and a better price," she said.

She anticipates the bill will be met with some resistance but is confident it will make its way through the legislative process in the upcoming session.