‘Sugary drinks’ bills in RI General Assembly deserve a vote

Will Kreznick

Rep. Jean Philippe Barros and Sen. Valarie Lawson Rep. Jean Philippe Barros, D-Pawtucket, represents House District 59. Sen. Valarie Lawson, D-East Providence, represents Senate District 14. According to the Rhode Island Community Food Bank, one in four local households will struggle to put food on their tables tonight. This is the highest […]

Rep. Jean Philippe Barros and Sen. Valarie Lawson

Rep. Jean Philippe Barros, D-Pawtucket, represents House District 59. Sen. Valarie Lawson, D-East Providence, represents Senate District 14.

According to the Rhode Island Community Food Bank, one in four local households will struggle to put food on their tables tonight. This is the highest level of food insecurity we’ve seen in 20 years, and the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the problem.

If you’ve ever relied on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to buy food, you understand the importance of seeing a “50% OFF” sticker on an item you and your family need. For many Rhode Islanders, the search for those discounts is the only feasible way they can provide their families with the fresh, healthy food they need.

State lawmakers, right now, have an opportunity to pass legislation that would fund a program to make those discounts more accessible. Our bills, H5715 and S0327, would implement a 1.5 cent per ounce tax on unhealthy, sugary beverages, and earmark the revenue to create a statewide Retail SNAP Incentive Program. The program could provide the more than 144,000 Rhode Islanders who rely on SNAP benefits, including more than 46,000 children and nearly 30,000 senior citizens, with a 50% discount on fresh produce when they pay with their SNAP benefits at retail grocery stores.

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