Despite New York’s well intentioned efforts, the Federal government has rejected Mayor Bloomberg’s efforts to combat obesity through limitations on soft drink purchases with “food stamps”.
Almost a year ago, New York suggested that the city’s participants in the SNAP program (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – the new name fro food stamps) would not be able to purchase soft drinks with the funds.
Why would the land fo the free have any say over what people buy and eat you may ask?
Simple: Taxpayer money goes to helping poor people buy food. That food should not be making them sick and fat.
But in reality that’s exactly what’s happening. Over 41 million Americans receive food assistance annually, which is a staggering number ( 13% of our population). Just in New York, we’re talking about 1.7 million people. In 2009, approximately $100 million dollars of SNAP money was spent by New Yorkers on soft drinks. That’s $100 million dollars in taxpayer money that went to pay for obesity and diabetes inducing beverages. Simply ridiculous.
So why doesn’t the USDA welcome New York’s initiative with open arms?
If you go back and read the history of the food aid assistance program, it was set up during the great depression to help needy families buy surplus food manufactured on US farms. The list of foods would change based on what farms were outputting – eggs, milk, apples, potatoes, etc…
Of course back in the day there was barely any processed food in grocery stores. And poor people were skinny and malnourished.
Unfortunately the original goals of the Food Stamp – now SNAP – program have been bastardized to mostly consider industry interests, not those of the citizens it was supposed to help. Even the name SNAP stands for Nutrition Assistance, not gorge-yourself-on-junk-food assistance.
Some people may opine that limiting choices with SNAP is discrimination against the poor. Or that the government has no right to tell people what to eat and what not. True, except for the fact that it is the government doling out the money in the first place.
Think about it, taxpayers are subsidizing high fructose corn syrup twice – once at the field paying farmers to grow monoculture corn, and the second time at the supermarket aiding SNAP recipients get their fizzy pop.
Lastly, Secretary Vilsack’s comment about the problem being too complex to solve may have been true in the 1950′s. But today? To paraphrase a 70′s TV series “We have the technology…”
Please chime in with your thoughts.