Purchasing sugary drinks with food stamps could be prohibited in New York City if a proposal by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Governor David Patterson is accepted by the USDA.
Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Patterson say that the drinks have no nutritional value. In 2010, Americans are said to be consuming, on average, 200-300 calories a day more than they were 30 years ago and close to half of these calories come from sugar-filled drinks.
Obesity rates have increased rapidly over the last 20 years, according to statistics from the Centre of Disease Control and Prevention.
In a press release, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said:
"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."
“We know there is no quick fix to address these issues. That’s why New York City has already implemented a series of programs that bring fresh fruits and vegetables to the communities that need them and set nutrition standards for all meals and snacks the City provides. We have to continue developing new strategies and initiatives to complement what has already been done. And that’s why we are looking to eliminate sugary beverages from allowable food stamp purchases. This initiative will give New York families more money to spend on foods and drinks that provide real nourishment.”
The Food Stamp Programme, now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programme(SNAP), was first introduced in 1964 and as of February 2010, over 39 million American households were receiving food stamps.
Households in receipt of food stamps are already prevented from purchasing some items like cigarettes and alcohol. The new proposal would ask the USDA to see how effective a "temporary modification" to the list of foods on the allowable list would be. Families would still get the same amount of benefit but with a ban on sugary drinks, it would make more money available for healthier food and drink.
Speaking to FoodNavigator USA, Professor of nutrition Dr. Barry Popkin described it as a "worthy goal" but did not think that the ban would be implemented. He said:
"The legal structure of our Food Stamp Program would have to be changed. They probably won’t get it."
"Politically it’s going to be very difficult for them to get anything through…This is something the food industry will fight.”