Why the USDA Rejected NYC's Food Stamp Soda Ban

soda tax photo

Photo: Ilovebutter

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been outspoken on the subject of obesity even stating that "[i]n spite of the great gains we've made over the past eight years in making our communities healthier, there are still two areas where we're losing ground -- obesity and diabetes." In an effort to reduce consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages like soda, Bloomberg asked the Federal Government for permission to ban the purchase of sugar-sweetened beverages with food stamps. Bloomberg contended that sugar-sweetened beverages had no nutritional benefits and only add to the city's growing obesity epidemic.
The request was made directly to the USDA, the agency which runs the food stamp program, also called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). After months of deliberation, the USDA rejected the request.

Proposed SNAP Ban Too Complex
In a letter from the USDA, SNAP Associate Administrator Jessica Shahin stated that "the size and scale of the proposed demonstration is too large and complex."

The USDA contends that the program should be tested on a smaller scale first to avoid unforeseen negative consequences. The agency was also concerned about confusion amongst retailers who may be unsure of what was actually banned from the program.

Mayor Bloomberg Responds
Mayor Bloomberg released a statement outlining his disappointment in the decision:

"We're disappointed that the Federal Government didn't agree and sorry that families and children may suffer from their unwillingness to explore our proposal. New York City will continue to pursue new and unconventional ways to combat the health problems that affect New Yorkers and all Americans."

The program already restricts the use of food stamps for alcohol, cigarettes, pet food, vitamins, household goods, and some prepared foods, but this would have marked the first time in history an item was banned from the SNAP program because of its nutritional profile. A CDC survey found that 56 percent of New York City residents were overweight or obese.

Not only is soda bad for NYC residents, it's bad for the planet considering that cans and plastic bottles are hugely wasteful. Even though they can be recycled, it takes energy to recycle them. Plus the manufacturing and transport of these beverages with absolutely no nutritional density, is hugely wasteful. And as we get fatter as a nation, it's a drain on our healthcare system as well.

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More on the Food Stamp Soda Ban
Mayor Bloomberg Takes a Swing at Sugar-Sweetened Beverages: Is Soda Weighing our Nation Down
More on Sugar Sweetened Beverages
Does Taxing Soda Actually Curb Obesity?
Link Confirmed Between Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and Type 2 Diabetes

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