Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Food Stamps and Sugary Drinks

Back in 2010, New York's Mayor Bloomberg (he of the new big-soda ban) and then-Governor Paterson proposed limiting the ability of food-stamp recipients to spend their aid-money on sugary sodas. They hoped to show that limiting spending on sugary drinks would reduce obesity. This was viewed as paternalistic intervention into the lives of the poor, and the federal government blocked the proposal. Now colleagues at Yale's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity have demonstrated that "[d]espite all the evidence on health risks linked to their consumption, sugar-sweetened beverages account for almost 60% of beverage purchases among SNAP [Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program] households and about one half of beverages purchased by WIC-only [Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children] households." In all, around $2 billion dollars of SNAP money is spent annually on refreshment beverages "with no nutritional value." Perhaps it's time to put additional limits--not all-out bans, but limits--on the freedom of nutrition-subsidy recipients to spend their aid dollars on sugar-water.

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