What's that saying about March coming in like a lion and going out like a lamb?
Sort of the way State Rep. Bakari Sellers' challenge to Gov. Nikki Haley morphed through the month. At the beginning of the month, Sellers, D-Bamberg, challenged Haley to a week of eating only healthy foods purchased in Bamberg and Colleton counties with food stamps. This was in response to Haley's initiative, in partnership with DHEC, to restrict the use of food stamps. Haley declined.
Sellers also started a website, healthymarch.com, to encourage healthy habits, and a fundraising campaign for the Harvest Hope Food Bank. The latter had netted one $100 donation — 5 percent of the goal, as of Friday. No doubt the food bank will appreciate any and all donations, but it's probably a safe bet Sellers was hoping for more.
Regardless, the publicity that it brought should help continue to shape the food assistance/obesity discussion.
That's what New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said after his super-size soda ban was struck down just hours before it was scheduled to go into effect.
That's what DHEC leader Catherine Templeton knows.
That's what the governor knows.
That's what the leaders of Eat Smart Move More Charleston County know.
And that's what Sellers knows.
It's just that there are different ways of approaching the problem. The common ground in all this is that nobody wants to continue having the same discussion 10 years down the road and not be any closer to a solution.
Increased options, solutions
Aligning guidelines for food stamps with the guidelines for WIC would seem to make sense from an enforcement standpoint.
It wouldn't mean people who get supplemental nutrition assistance would be forbidden from buying sodas, or chips, or snack cakes. It means they can't use their food stamps to buy those things — after all, SNAP includes the words “supplemental” and “nutrition.”
But the state has to commit to education, ensuring that folks know, for instance, that SNAP/EBT cards are accepted at farmers markets. And it has to commit to program expansion.
If they can do that, and there are organizations here that would help with that, then we'll have a complete program that really does accomplish some of the other goals Haley and Templeton have set out — to reduce the percentage of obese residents, to have a healthier state and to have fewer people who need to be on Medicaid.
If the state wins in its bid to get the Fed to restrict what can be purchased with food stamps, state leaders absolutely need to follow through with programs that provide education and, more importantly, access to fresh food, particularly in places where it is most needed and least available. Mobile farmers markets would bring the food to those who need it.
What about a food truck rodeo for the food banks? Food trucks could donate a portion of their proceeds from a given event to the Lowcountry Food Bank, and distribute fresh foods to folks in need.
It's going to take more than politics to improve the health of our state.