Yesterday afternoon, my friend who knows [and, I suspect, resents] my personal anti-sodapop stance sent me an interesting op-ed from the New York Times. I’m just gonna quote a few key sections before I get started, here:
Every year, tens of millions of federal dollars are spent on sweetened beverages in New York City through the food stamp program — far more than is spent on obesity prevention. This amounts to an enormous subsidy to the sweetened beverage industry.
To correct this, New York City and State are asking the United States Department of Agriculture, which administers the food stamp program, to authorize a demonstration project in New York City. The city would bar the use of food stamps to buy beverages that contain more sugar than substance — that is, beverages with low nutritional value that contain more than 10 calories per eight-ounce serving. The policy would not apply to milk, milk substitutes (like soy milk, rice milk or powdered milk) or fruit juices without added sugar — and its effects would be rigorously evaluated.
This policy change would be entirely in keeping with existing standards for defining what is and isn’t nutritious. The Agriculture Department itself has already rightly declared sugar-sweetened beverages to be “foods of minimal nutritional value.”
The city’s proposed program would not reduce participants’ food stamp benefits or their ability to feed their families a nutritionally adequate diet. They would still receive every penny of support they now get, meaning they would have as much, if not more, to spend on nutritious food. And they could still purchase soda if they chose — just not with taxpayer dollars.
I mean, this is pretty damn progressive. And really, I don’t know that typical arguments about government involvement in our personal decisions apply here, because (1) this isn’t the government telling us to do with our own dollars… these are taxpayer dollars and (2) you can argue that the precedent for this has already been set, as the op-ed also notes:
Recipients, however, aren’t allowed to buy everything a grocery store might sell. The federal government bars the use of food stamps to buy cigarettes, beer, wine, liquor or prepared foods like deli sandwiches and restaurant entrees. Still, the program, which is supposed to promote nutrition as well as reduce hunger, has a serious flaw: food stamps can be used to buy soda and other sweetened drinks.
I got a few people asking me my thoughts on this… and even though I don’t love to “do” politics on this site, I can for a minute.
I’m interested in your thoughts, though – do you support this or stand against it? Why? Keep in mind the quotations in bold when you share your thoughts! All sides welcome here!