He won't rest until we're all eating nothing but fiber pellets distributed by government contractors at smoke-free pedestrian plaza work camps. As if poor people on food stamps don't have enough troubles, Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Paterson are teaming up to deprive them of the sweet solace of soda pop! By making food stamps invalid for purchases of sugar-sweetened beverages in NYC, the city also hopes to deprive poor people of diabetes.
"In 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," Mayor Bloomberg says. And Paterson's chimes in, "The use of Food Stamp benefits to support the purchase of sugar sweetened drinks not only contradicts the intent of this vital program, but it also subsidizes a serious public health epidemic." Of course, food stamp recipients would still be able to use the stamps for other junk food. (For now!)
If the initiative is approved by the USDA, it would prohibit the use of food stamps to purchase sugar-sweetened beverages containing more than 10 calories per 8 ounces. (A 12 ounce soda, for example contains 150 calories and the equivalent of 10 packets of sugar, without any other nutrients.) Fruit juices without added sugar, milk products and milk substitutes would still be permitted. The change would be in effect for a trial period of two years, during which the Health Department would study its impact. But winning USDA approval is not a guarantee; ABC reports that in 2004 the USDA rejected Minnesota's plan to ban junk food from food stamp purchases, saying it would violate the Food Stamp Act's definition of what is food and could create "confusion and embarrassment" at the register.
In 2009, New Yorkers with the lowest income "were most likely to consume one or more sugar-sweetened beverages a day and did so at a rate almost double that of New Yorkers with the highest incomes (38 percent vs. 19 percent)", according to the Mayor's press release. The Health Department asserts that a child who consumes one sugary drink a day has a 60 percent higher risk of obesity than those who do not. In announcing the proposal, the city released a map showing sugary beverage consumption broken down by neighborhood. They love their soda in the outer boroughs!