(CBS NEWS) - The food-stamp program is credited with helping 44 million people in America afford groceries, providing what supporters say is a needed benefit for some of the country’s most vulnerable.

Yet critics of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) say the anti-hunger program is easily abused, and the latest questions about the program are stirring a hornet’s nest of debate. One hot-button issue: Should food-stamp recipients be banned from buying soda and candy?

House lawmakers on Thursday heard experts discuss the issue in what appeared to be a fact-finding mission, as the House Agriculture Committee said it wanted to hear the “pros and cons.”

The debate aligns two sides that may not appear to have much in common: critics on the right of government overspending and public health advocates. Debate about how food-stamp benefits are spent was sparked by a November report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which found that households receiving SNAP benefits used 20 cents of every dollar to buy soda, candy, desserts and other unhealthy foods.

MORE: Read the full story at CBSNEWS.com