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Food Stamp soda exemption in NYC is discriminatory, says industry

5 commentsBy Caroline Scott-Thomas , 05-May-2011

The beverage industry has accused New York City officials of unfair discrimination in a proposal to prevent food stamp benefits from being used to purchase sugary beverages.

The use of food stamps, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, is already prohibited for some grocery store items, such as alcohol, nutritional supplements and prepared foods. New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Governor David Paterson put forward the proposal to add sugar-sweetened beverages to the list of items prohibited on the program in October, in an effort to tackle growing rates of obesity and diabetes.

They claim that sugar-sweetened beverages are “the largest single contributor to the obesity epidemic” and have asked for a two-year trial period to test their plan.

However, the American Beverage Association (ABA), which represents the interests of beverage manufacturers including Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Dr Pepper Snapple, says that people should be allowed to make their own decisions about what they eat and drink.

ABA director of communications Chris Gindlesperger told FoodNavigator-USA: “It’s another attempt for government to tell people what they can and can’t drink. Singling out one specific item is discriminatory and unfair. Participants in the SNAP program can decide what they want to buy for themselves and their families.”

The US Department of Agriculture estimates that about six percent of SNAP benefits are spent on sugar-sweetened beverages nationwide – and about $75m to $135m annually in New York City. The number of Americans who benefit through the program has grown rapidly as the economy has struggled, with one in seven, or 44 million people, now receiving food stamps.

Food policy and nutrition expert Marion Nestle wrote in a recent blog post that she has long been uncomfortable with the idea of the soda ban” but has come to support it.

“Evidence is strong that sugary drinks predispose to obesity, and obesity rates are higher among low-income households,” she wrote. “…We need to focus on finding ways to make healthful foods more affordable and accessible to low-income families – doubling the value of SNAP benefits when used for fruits and vegetables, for example, or promoting incentives to move grocery stores, and community gardens into inner-city areas.”

But Gindlesperger said that the beverage industry backs nutrition education and, through its recently launched ‘Clear on Calories’ program, is providing calorie information boldly on the front of beverage containers.

“After Mayor Bloomberg and other government officials start singling out specific items it’s a slippery slope,” he said. “What’s next?”

5 comments (Comments are now closed)

No, It IS their money

Most people in the SNAP program have paid their taxes for years, so it is not your money they are spending. A popular misconception.

So how is someone reciving assistance making a negative impact on your life? Folks have been heavy users of soda the last 30 years or so, and I don't see bodies stacking up in the streets.

It is amazing what a Stalinist/Maoist society we are becoming.

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Posted by Jack Spencer
30 May 2011 | 01h292011-05-30T01:29:40Z

Is it called the Snack Assistance Program?

The answer is No. It is called the Supplemental NUTRITION Assistance Program, it is not named Snack Assistance program. Why do people feel entitled to buy crap with other people's money? Before someone gets all bent out of shape about my comment, I want to say we receive Food Stamps! We use Coupons too, to stretch what the gov. and people are generous enough to offer. Food Stamps should have the same nutritional guidelines as Wic and if you don't like it? Fine! Then you don't have to use them. There are more than enough people out there appreciative of any help offered to them no matter what the rules. If you buy healthier stuff you might just be healthier and in my personal experience FS receipients who are adults have minimal or NO health insurance, so you do the math. Eat healthier, stay healthier, be less of a tx on the system & people helping you out in your time of need!!!

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Posted by C Simpson Hall
17 May 2011 | 16h252011-05-17T16:25:49Z

As a Registered Dietitian and tax payer, I think SNAP should be modeled more like WIC (Women, Infant and Children) program where they are told what to purchase. WIC, a few years ago, changed their program to make healthier choices. Why not SNAP? Since when is it discriminatory?

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Posted by The Frugal Dietitian
17 May 2011 | 14h392011-05-17T14:39:08Z

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