Reports confirm that New York City wants to ban the use of food stamps to purchase sugary drinks. The proposed agenda comes from the mayor of the city, Michael Bloomberg, and the governor of New York, David Paterson.
Bloomberg and Paterson are actively seeking permission from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the food stamp program. They’re hoping to add sugary drinks to the list of goods currently banned. That list currently includes beer, pet food, and cigarettes.
According to NPR, efforts to prohibit buying junk food have been rejected before by the USDA.
The question is, will this be progressive, or somehow another tactic to hyper-manage impoverished Americans and loads of people who are unemployed in New York City simply because they’re in need of food assistance?
Some activists are opposed to the restriction, stating they single out those with low incomes and could make some people shy away from seeking assistance.
Mayor Bloomberg has an answer for that. He said at a news conference this morning that obesity is a simple issue. “It’s not like cancer, where we don’t know the cure.”
The mayor added, “This we know how to cure: stop eating extra calories.”
Data shows there are 1.7 million New Yorkers using food stamps. The proposal could potentially ban any drinks with 10 or more calories per 8 ounces. Juices and milk-based products with no added sugar would not be included. Diet soda will not be prohibited.
But why sugary drinks, when ice cream and candy can still be purchased with food stamps? City officials argue that low-income people are more likely to drink sugar-based drinks and twice more likely to have type 2 diabetes than people earning higher salaries.
According to sources, the city plans to test the prohibition of food stamps for sugary drinks for two years so the effects can be studied.
Considering a likely ban of soda and sugar-based juices, hopefully the city will finance better markets and grocery stores in low-income communities. You can easily walk into any store in some communities in Harlem and Brooklyn and see a vast absence of healthy and/or organic foods and drinks.
On the other hand, some people think that the proposal is a step in the right direction. New York has arguably led the way for healthy-living. The city is among the first to ban smoking inside public buildings and restaurants, and has recently made it mandatory for all restaurants to list the amount of calories for food and drink offerings on all menus. The city’s required recycling program for all communities also sets a positive example.
In an opinion-piece in today’s New York Times, city commissioners argue that what is estimated to be over $10 million spent on sweetened drinks purchased through the city’s food stamp program equals to the amount of a federal subsidy for the sugar beverage industry.
Do you think sugar-based drinks purchased with food stamps should be banned?
Would low-income people be unfairly singled out? Sound off!