Should Soft Drinks Be Off Limits for Food Stamp Recipients?

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?

According to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, the proposal would be too complex to implement. He questioned its viability and effectiveness:
“We are confident that we can solve the problem of obesity and promote good nutrition and health for all Americans and stand ready to work with New York City to achieve these goals”

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.

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  • Laffin Alltheway

    I agree with Mayor Bloomberg.  I want to help poor families get the food they need – that’s what my tax dollars are going for.  Soda is not healthy and it is not a necessity.  Nobody is telling the poor that they can’t buy soda, just that they can’t buy it on the government’s (taxpayers’) dime.

    • Lauren Smith

      I completely agree with your last sentence, and I think that’s a huge point worth emphasizing. My mom helps me financially still (I’m in college), but I would never expect her to pay for unnecessary purchases, like my new phone or the tons of cookbooks I’m always getting from eBay. ;) I pay for those things, just like I would pay for soda instead of making the government pay for it.

      Or, you know, people could just DRINK WATER. *sigh*

      • Christina Berg

        Water has no nutritional value, soda does, blue collar workers on food stamps need high calories, the stereotype that food stamp users don’t work, or obese, and make poor decisions is key, food is junk based on excess calories,is fried chicken ok, given its just chicken and oil?

        • Crae

          Soda does not have any nutritional value. Sugar is not a nutrient and regardless, Americans get wayyyy to much sugar in their diet. Water is ESSENTIAL for life

          • Kris Berg

            The body cannot survive without glucose.

    • Christina Berg

      Should public employees be able to buy soda, why single out soda not juice?

      • Crae

        Look at my reply to you a few posts above regarding your stance about public employees….But pertaining to the difference between soda and juice, juice has vitamins and minerals. In fact, it has the micronutrients such as vitamin c that the majority of Americans are lacking in their diet. Soda has absolutely nothing. In fact, the caramel color used in dark sodas is not considered to be a carcinogen (read applicable fooducate article).

        • Kris Berg

          But Gatorade used by athletes would be banned and vitamin water despite having nutritional value.

  • Laffin Alltheway

    I agree with Mayor Bloomberg.  I want to help poor families get the food
    they need – that’s what my tax dollars are going for.  Soda is not
    healthy and it is not a necessity.  Nobody is telling the poor that they
    can’t buy soda, just that they can’t buy it on the government’s
    (taxpayers’) dime.

  • J in VA

    The food stamp program ought to take some notes from the WIC (Women, Infants and Children–another food assitance program). WIC gives a set amount of certain foods each month: milk, cereal, cheese, peanut butter, etc….Food stamps could be set up the same way–there are many things that should be in the same category with the soda. I have no problem giving folk FOOD assistance that need it–junk assistance I do not enjoy.

    Food stamp receptients already pay for their non-food items when they shop. How hard would it be to include their soda with those other items. If they want it badly enough, they can figure out how to pay for it.

    • Fistuk

      That was my thinking too, until I realized that WIC is strictly for foods infested with hormones, steroids antibiotics and other junk.

      • Jim Cooper

        Please provide a reference supporting your assertion. It seems rather extreme.

        • Fistuk

           Go to your local supermarket and see for yourself. That’s how I found that out. There are signs that says which milk, eggs, etc you can buy using WIC. On WIC, you cannot buy hormone-free, steroid-free, antibiotic free (organic) products. At least that’s how it is in grocery stores I’ve been to.

          • Jim Cooper

            Here is a link to the Massachusetts WIC Food List:
            It really isn’t too bad. For the most part these are nutritious foods. The main criticism is that those labeled Organic are prohibited, and this is purely for cost reasons, not health policy I expect. There are some things I wish weren’t on there, but I think they did a pretty good job of restricting you to the more desirable foods.

          • Christina Berg

            WIC is NOT designed for those who prepare meals, also is there a wic checkout button on most registers no, 

          • Cemetree

            how do you come to the assertion that people who receive WIC do not prepare meals? i mean, i get cereal is not really prepared but people certainly can make things from beans, bread, eggs, milk etc. yes, they will most likely have to buy more things to cook with those items but still, things can be prepared

          • Kris Berg

            WIC is designed for infants and children, infants and children are not the types of consumers who have varying diet needs based on occupation, a roofer, construction worker, or even a blue collar worker who is low wage and hauls and lifts heavy objects is different than a female secretary at the office, in fact men and women have different diet needs, and an infant is not making the decision as to whether to have an extra 500 calories before work.

          • Gallucci

            “WIC is designed for infants and children…” I think you forgot the word “Women”.

          • Marylin Strauss

            its the same stuff the rest of us are paying for.

    • Christina Berg

      WIC is designed for folks who cannot feed themselves, it is not designed for the construction worker or blue collar worker who has his hours cut and is on SNAP.

      • Heidi Hall

        actually, MANY more people qualify for WIC than know they do. You do not have to be on SNAP to receive WIC

      • Amy Cosford

        You can buy healthy, nutritious food with SNAP and pass on the unhealthy stuff. When I worked at Sam’s Club, people would come in with their food stamp card and buy boxes of chips, candy bars, gum, etc. How is this allowed?

        • Aisha

          To my knowledge there has never been any restrictions with purchasing food having snap benefits. When i worked at a supermarket in the pass. I would see a bunch of customers who had foodstamps with two loads of shopping carts filled with nothing but crappy mainly boxed food.

  • Dave

    With the amount of money being doweled out from this massive program do you really think that the lobbyists for the soda industry will just sit there quietly?  There is no way in the world that they will get cut out of this major economical stimulus program.

  • Jenny

    I fully agree that soda should not be covered by SNAP. I happen to be one of the tax payers that is funding their soda habit and I don’t even buy soda myself. I don’t think it is beyond the scope of the government to tell people what they can and cannot buy if they are using SNAP. 

    • Christina Berg

      Should bill gates limit what police officers and firefighters should eat,pays more tax.

  • John

    Correct me if I’m wrong here (fortunately I have never been in a position to need this type of assistance), but aren’t recipients already limited agsainst using this program to purchase alcohol and tobacco products?  If that’s the case, then making any statements about the adminstrative difficulty preventing anything else from being limited is ridiculous.  In my opinion, if I’m funding your eating habits, then I sure as heck should have a say in what you are eating.  And, if you don’t like that, than you don’t need to take my help.

    • Christina Berg

      No, banning a soda is easy but singling out soda and not anything else is wrong, its like taxing two folks making the same money but in two occupations differently.

  • Andy Didyk

    Well said.  And the note about WIC is absolutely right – you are limited to buying (mostly) nutritious food for an infant/baby.  I’m a pretty conservative voter in general, but if you’re on food stamps buying soda just doesn’t make sense to me.  Of course, if poor people couldn’t buy soda, under the current situation they wouldn’t really be able to afford to eat healthy food, either.  Case in point – a fresh bell pepper or a gallon of skim milk costs $5 at the local Wal-Mart, but the equivalent gallon of soda costs only $2, less if you buy generic soda.  I’m guessing that’s the REAL reason behind not implementing the changes – it would simply cost too much.

    • Christina Berg

      As a conservative, may I ask you a question, many conservative voters live in the south (this issue is not liberal vs. conservative), are soul food junk? Farm workers and that dmv clerk who sits all day, are two different occoupations, in other words if many working recepients are on food stamps, why deny somebody the calories, 
      food is only junk if its excess, 

  • Jen in MN

    I do think it’s hard to monitor. Suppose their child is ill and the dr said ginger ale or flat 7-up? 

    If there’s going to be monitoring I’d rather see the funding go towards classes/lessons on more lean meats and whole grains and less lobster tails and tbone steaks. Seriously.

    • Karyn

      Good point, Jen.  Though I do think the occasional 2 liter of ginger ale or 7-UP would be cheap enough to be manageable on the cash budget (such as it is), as far as arguments about super-restricting food stamps to be “no processed foods” would go, that means things like king crab legs would be okay but Banquet frozen meals would not.  As crappy as I think Banquet frozen meals are, at least they are budget-friendly.  Again, the real problem is the state of nutrition education in our society:  Most of us who debate these issues are in an informed, motivated, and at least intellectually privileged minority.  We need to figure out how the hell to reach the average American at the deep, daily-life cultural level.

      • Christina Berg

        Yup, why ban a soda but not many fruit juices which are not the same as fruit itself

        A food is only junk if the person is not burning calories, the stereotype is that there are fat,lazy,uneducated folks on food stamps, take candy for instance, Minnesota wanted to still allow kit kats and twix bars because of flour, is dark chocolate junk?

        That bagel with cream cheese probably has more calories than a soda, also isn’t white rice,flour,pasta just as bad.

    • Christina Berg

      Would juice be banned , nope, lobster was cheaper than hot dogs not too long ago.

  • FoodFan

    First, let me say that I fully support this effort to ban soft drinks from the SNAP program.  However, I do understand the logistic difficulty of such a ban.  What exactly will be included in this definition?  Will “fruit drinks” with added sugar be considered soft drinks?  What about bottled iced tea?  What about flavored milks with as much sugar as a soft drink?  What about lemonade..gatorade..vitamin water?  This ban would set off a flurry of lobbying activity by food manufacturers about why their beverage was not a soft drink and why it has nutritional merit.  These officials don’t want to be bothered with that HUGE fight followed by possible lawsuits from manufacturers who get excluded. 

    • Maddie Mudster

      Simple. On foodstamps, the only drink you can buy is plain skim milk. Any other beverage is 100% unnecessary. It’s called water.

      • carol

        Not everyone can tolerate cow milk (which some might add is for baby cows). What about soy/rice/nut milks that are fortified and often cheaper than dairy milks? Not so simple.

      • Christina Berg

        That is ridiculous because water has no nutritional water, an athlete or courier should be denied a high calorie drink on food stamps,

      • Kris Berg

        Water has no nutritional value, and WIC allows whole milk for younger infants for development, sounds like you need nutrition 101.

    • Crae

      How about anything that provides absolutely no nutritional content and is therefore a waste of money in the context of providing nutrition.

      • Kris Berg

        Sugar has nutritional value, can your body survive without it, the problem is excess.

  • Guest

    We have one of the few countries in the world where our poor people are too fat.  Let me say that again, our POOR people are too FAT.  
    Limit SNAP choices to the Health Nazi favorites only. Brown rice, whole grains, 95% lean or leaner proteins, some fruit, and a boatload of vegetables (not potatoes).  You want freedom of food choices, earn your own money or eat what you’re given.
    Now you get to do your utopian experiment and see if they get skinnier, healthier, and happier.

    • Susan Cactuswren

      I’m glad YOU have time to prepare nutritious homemade dishes of brown rice and lean proteins.  I’m happy for you that YOU live in an area where such things can be easily procured.  It’s nice that YOU have the facilities to cook such meals.  Has it ever occurred to you that what applies to YOU may not apply to everyone?  That there are such things as “food deserts” where the only stores are convenience markets and liquor stores?  That some people work more a single job?  That not everyone has a completely outfitted Williams-Sonoma kitchen setup?

      Try what Barbara Ehrenreich did:  go to a strange city and apply for a minimum-wage job.  (As a single woman in good health with no dependents, she was never able to support herself on a single such job.)  THEN, after you’ve lived on what you can earn that way for a month, get back to us on your nutritious brown-rice-and-lean-fucking-protein diet.

      • Fistuk

        So what you’re saying is to deny poor people proper education and to give them diabetes and other diseases instead? And then the taxpayers have to pay their “healthcare” bills?
        I’m sorry, but I disagree with you!

        • Christina Berg

          Should public employees be able to buy junk food, its your tax dollars,

          • Crae

            Given your argument, private employees also would be using your dollars to buy food because you are ALSO the consumer. But the act of working makes it no longer your dollar and therefore no longer your decision.

          • Kris Berg


        • Sickofsnobs

          I have to disagree with you, do you run around telling the fat middle class people the same thing? How about the middle class fat people the same thing? The working poor also pay taxes

      • Guest

        Ms. Cactuswren, you notice that whenever the Barbara (nickled and dimed) and other (the guy from SuperSize Me) people try the “the plight of living on minimum wage” bit, they never APPLY FOR THE EXACT PROGRAM WE’RE TALKING ABOUT.  Or free bus vouchers, or housing assistance, or any of the other public assistance programs out there. 

        If you are going to provide free food for needy people, only provide food-nazi food.  It’s that simple.  If you don’t want to eat your public assistance tofu, spinach, and brown rice, then don’t.  It’s there for you. 

        I know reading comprehension is hard.  Keep trying.

        • Christina Berg

          Guest fails to realize that food-nazi food can be junk,

          • Susan Cactuswren

            Guest similarly fails to realize that food-nazi food isn’t AVAILABLE in many areas.

      • Marylin Strauss

        our parents were poor and they picked healthy food to eat. food stamps didn’t exist. good food doesn’t really cost that much you just have to have a plan. less money a better plan is needed indeed:)

    • Christina Berg

      So a blue collar worker on food stamps cannot eat high calories?

    • Gallucci

      I’m in agreement that when you receive subsidized assistance, your choices should be limited & you get what you receive. (This is coming from an individual who receives Medicaide.) But that’s actually not the culprit. It’s about cost & spending. Take a box of Ramen noodles & compare it to the price of a pre-made healthy alternative. Take your canned pineapples (overloaded with excess sugar & high fructose corn syrup) & compare it to the price of a fresh or frozen pineapple. It’s inflated prices, in coalition with overpowered corporations (GM, Kellogs, Welch’s, etc.), that are driving the quality down & forcing the real farmers out of business.

  • Karyn

    Food stamp recipients are, for the most part, like every other American:  a few who are educated and informed on food issues, many who simply accept that if it’s sold in grocery stores as food, it must be good, nourishing food.  So I don’t support paternalistic efforts to tightly monitor what kinds of foods food stamp recipients can buy.

    That being said, I do think it would be reasonable to exclude pop and energy drinks from what is considered “food stampable,” because they do not, by even the most processed-food accepting perspective, have any real nutritional value.  But let’s also be careful not to demonize people who receive food stamps as if they were something other than the rest of us, because they are not.  Let’s also focus on questioning a culture in which pop drinking is taken for granted as normal, and pop seen as a dietary staple.

    • Nancy – The Frugal Dietitian

      It is part of the tax dollars – why is that “demonizing” to expect participants to eat healthier foods?  I don’t understand it when people say that. If I only gave them spoiled food, “junk foods” etc. that would be demonizing.

      • Karyn

        What’s “demonizing” is when people talk about food stamp recipients in a paternalistic way, as if they are somehow incapable of making their own food choices simply because they are experiencing economic hardship.  People are entitled to dignity, even if they do need help from others who are fortunate enough to be well off enough to be in the tax-paying brackets.  Micromanaging their food choices does not treat people with dignity.  It treats them as if they were lesser beings.

      • Christina Berg

        Nonsense, but I see your point of view in the sense that everybody wants healthier food after all if junk food were not cheaper they would not serve it school/prison.
        But junk is hard to define, and food stamp recipients may work, making it like jail is nonsense, many recipients have personal lives,  many may be construction workers, firefighters, police officers, etc, tell me what makes  a food junk, is butter and cheese junk food and oil, I used a taco as an example, 

      • Jim Schmidt

        The issues are nationwide and a nationwide approach needs to be taken. If government stops subsidizing the wrong things and does something like put a tax on foods/drinks with added sugar to make them on par or more expensive than “healthier” foods then people will choose the less expensive. 

        The argument that it’s the “taxpayers” dollar is fine and dandy but the reality is that most of the food items SNAP recipients are buying they buy because they get the most bang for the buck. Soda isn’t the only issue, it’s the tip of the iceberg.

        How about addressing the issues of getting the people off SNAP in the first place? How about education? 

        Until you get Big Ag/Big business and the money and lobbyist out of DC public health will continue to come second. Political agendas and corporations will continue to come first….unfortunately.

        • NoFoodsnob23

          Jim it’s not all about education, just because you are working poor does not mean you are ignorant you are educated people in low paying jobs you are people that can’t find work in their field, you have people that were working in their field and it was down sized. It’s about people earning a living wage not everyone can be on the top or the middle there will always be people on the bottom.

          There are lots of reasons people are in low paying situations.

          • Jim Schmidt

            Education is one of many things that can contribute to needing SNAP. I’m using “education” in the broadest sense of the word. Some people may just need some help with handling finances, another person may never have learned to cook, and of course you have those that may want to further their education. I think you will notice that I said “how about addressing the issues of getting the people off SNAP in the first place” The line you are reading asking about education follows the first statement which I thought had sufficiently implied that there wasn’t one cause or one solution to those receiving assistance.


    • Christina Berg

      No, singling out soda is wrong, it does have nutritional value, sugar, the stereotype is that food stamps recipients don’t know how to cook or prepare nutritional food, 
      why, its quite simple, if a blue collar worker needs a high-calorie meal and eats say a taco, with its sour cream, avacado, cheese, corn tortillas, etc is it junk , starches turn into sugar, it makes no sense to ban soda without banning sugar itself. 

      • Chris

        Sugar is one of the worse things you can put in your body.  We all need to go back to the old days of making ALL our own food as best we can.  It is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your family.  I’m sorry but no one works 24 hours a day and can’t make there own food.  On days that I’m busy I always have things ready in the fridge or freezer.  Not boxes food from the store but homemade.  It is so much cheaper to make it yourself.  I have been cooking this way for about 2 years and have seen a big difference in mine and my families health.  We have never felt so good in our lives.  You would really be surprised how much money you save when you cut out all the processed food out of your diet.  They are only making you sick.  You many no be feeling it now but you are going to pay big time if you don’t stop eating it.  I have a child that gets really sick from these foods and that is what has made our family change.  Please don’t wait until your sick to stop eating it.  I have read many books on what our food is doing to us and its really scary.  We all need to think twice before we buy processed food again.  The more people that stop buying it the faster they will stop making it.  We need to stick together and send a message that we want better foods to feed our family.  When you stop buying it you send a message loud and clear.  Take the money you would spend on a fast food order and make a homemade pot of soup that will last you many meals and is so much better for you.  I pay $2.00 a pound for soup bones and make a big pot of soup with that.  It’s cheaper than buying one can of beef stock.  Our family has a lot of fun cooking together.  Try to eat the way our grandparents ate and you will live a long and healthy life.  They always had fun cooking together and we are missing out on that. 

        • Susan Cactuswren

          And how far do you have to ride home on the bus, carrying your groceries in your hands and herding a couple of small children?  I mean, I’m *certain* you’re not speaking from a position of privilege where you have access to a car and your choice of fully stocked grocery stores, are you?

        • Kris Berg

          Glucose is necessarily for survival, and humans have been eating sugar for thousands of years, the problem is excess, what about fat, its necessary but no excess.

    • Kayla

      I’m a single mother with 2 kids. I have a job and I’m trying to save money to finish school. I receive SNAP benefits. I would fully support a ban on soft drinks. Personally, I don’t drink sodas. Do I sometimes buy ice cream? Yes. Do I sometimes buy the ingredients to make cookies? Yes. But for the most part, I buy healthy, real food. I would find it reasonable if snack foods were excluded from the progam. If you want m&m’s then purchase them with your own money. The problem is that it can’t be so black and white. Like many of the comments on this article point out, where do you draw the line?

  • mikes

    Crazy stuff… it should be a piece of cake (no pun intended) to limit the SNAP dollars to whatever food products are desired. 

    I think we’re more representative here with milk around $3/gallon, and a bell pepper around $1-1.5.   Generic soda is $.79 for a 2 liter (roughly $1.50/gallon)… but it takes so much more soda to get your vitamins.  ;)  

    Seriously, it makes more sense to buy a family a gallon of milk where they can only have 8 ounces a day each rather than soda just to get the bulk.  Tap water is essentially free.   Bell peppers are great, but one of the more expensive common veggies per measure of weight.  Regular carrots will do just fine on my dime at less than $1/pound.  I eat them every day for midmorning snack.  Speaking of which…   :)

    • Christina Berg

      Should we allow a chocolate milkshake but not vitamin water, soda has nutritional value its sugar, its no different than adding honey to white rice or pasta.

      • Madmodeler

        Neither product should be allowed, there is little actual sugar in pop, and sugar isn’t a nutrient, your body creates all of the “sugar” it needs by converting starches. All SNAP purchases should be strictly limited to basic nutritional needs. whole wheat bread, beans, water, and fresh fruits and veggies. A healthy diet would change these peoples lives!


    the current program also limits premade hot food (you cannot buy a ready made pizza or deli chicken), so the idea that it cannot be limited is BS.  The real problem (as it has been mentioned here) is that people don’t have a clue what to do with real food. If it does not come from a box with instructions they are lost. Education, training the children, this is a long long battle…

    • Christina Berg

      Agree, but is a taco junk food, and is junk food for a construction worker, really tacos contain corn tortillas, sour cream, avacado, cheese, and beef, its high calorie 

  • Verna

    If it is a “nutrition” program, there is no room for soft drinks of any kind because there is ZERO nutrition in pop! I would like to limit the packaged and processed foods that could be purchased too. These dollars should be spent on fruits, veggies, and legumes. If they want junk food they should use their own dollars. Imagine how much healthier everyone could be and how much we would all save on insurance premiums and medicare if everyone ate health promoting instead of health destroying foods.

    • Christina Berg

      Soda has nutritional value , its sugar, defining junk food to not include a taco=silly.

  • Darkwitch27

    This is just dumb.. I work hard so people that has less then i can have things that they want.. I will be fighting for this to NOT happen… This is soposes to be a free country and every day they take something away from us…

    • Christina Berg

      Its tax dollars but defining what is junk is the issue.

  • Darkwitch27

    People are crazy to think they can tell people how to eat.. This is to funny…

    • Christina Berg

      Yes and No, tax dollars are at issue here, but we don’t limit a police officer’s choices

  • Carol

    The real question is how to define “soda” when there are thousands of beverage products that overlap in terms of nutrition, ingredients, etc. Some are not carbonated, but contain tons of sugar and lack any good nutrients. Others are carbonated, but have only a small amount of sugar (often from juice, etc.), and may contain some useful vitamins. 20+ years ago there was “soda,” Kool-Aid and “juice,” and that was about it. Today it would be way more difficult to come up with a meaningful definition. And if the criteria used sugar/calorie content, would you want to support/sponsor drinking artificially-sweetened beverages as “healthier” and a better use of our $$?

    • Christina Berg

      Exactly my point which is why it was rejected.

  • Charity Froggenhall

    This ban does nothing to address the larger problem that — because of farm subsidies that makes corn and high-fructose corn syrup so cheap — a gallon of milk is more expensive than a bottle of soda. 

  • Cemetree

    WAIT- it would be too difficult to implement?? they changed it a few years ago that you could no longer get energy drinks on SNAP so i really do not see why they can change that and not this. I am on SNAP benefits and even i think people should not be allowed to buy pop with the funds. or anything else with 0 nutrition value. at least with something like potato chips you can say it has SOME nutrition to it but things like pop have none

    • Christina Berg

      Soda has nutritional value its sugar, would you ban vitamin water since its has added vitamins, also a blue-collar worker on food stamps needs calories.

  • Cemetree

    BUT.. i can say that you can advocate tap water all you want EXCEPT, some towns do not have safe tap water.. i’m not saying im guzzling pop, i fill a water cooler bottle at the store but i use my SNAP to do it. granted it is only just over a dollar for each of our 3 liter refills and we had to buy the bottle originally with cash.. FYI- my town’s tested tap water had higher than safe lead….

  • Nancy- The Frugal Dietitian

    This has been my battle cry as a Registered Dietitian for years – the government needs to look at their own programs before blaming the Food manufacturers and restaurants!! I plan on writing a form letter to send to all of the Representatives in Congress!! Like someone already wrote – WIC has done it!! I worked in WIC as it was changing over – a few complaints but that is typical.

    • Christina Berg

      Wrong, WIC’s purpose is different, is there a WIC checkout like food stamps, NO, besides WIC is for those who don’t cook or for infants, not for working folks.

      • Kayla

        WIC is for Women, Infants , and Children. It is to help pregnant women and women who have just given birth. WIC also provides formula for infants and items for children up to 5 years old. There are income guidelines but a lot of “working folks” still use the program.

      • crystalrae

        I work full time, as does my partner. We are on WIC for our almost two year old son, because we meet the income guidelines. And guess what? I cook SEVEN DAYS A WEEK. Not much one can do with dry beans, raw eggs, and frozen veggies… other than COOK them.

    • Kris Berg

      As a dietitian you should be aware that an infant and a child has different diet needs than an adult male doing construction work or a female secretary in an office.

  • Lindsay

    I’ve had experience as a cashier at a big box mart and what I saw was this: most (80%) of people using food stamps would use them to pay for their food, and then use their cash to buy blu-ray movies, cigarettes, and other things like that. The soda I noticed a lot of people buying were the 20 ounce bottles sold at the check-out line. Not just one bottle but five or six which cost more than most two liters. Never made any sense to me.

    • Christina Berg

      Many grocery stores are not selling blu-rays, it does not make sense to buy a 20 oz
      however the coca cola company is capitalizing on smaller 8oz bottles for same price. 

    • Cemetree

      this does not apply for all but it MAY have something to do with the fact that little bottles people can get 5 cents each for and big bottles only 5 cents per one. while larger bottles are more economical, people can get more cash value back with small bottles.. crazy, i know but they do not pay the bottle tax 

  • Mdeva

    Slippery slope. Who’s to define where the line should be drawn. Diet soda? Not demonstrably unhealthy, but certainly not nutritious. Butter? Or just healthy alternatives to butter? Who draws THAT line? Eggs? Or only Eggbeaters? Bananas? (They are, after all, YELLOW (not GREEN!) on the Glycemic Index scale).

    I can see the letter now…

    Dear Mayor Bloomberg,
    I am out of work and on SNAP. I am also anorexic and you have banned all foods with fat contents over 11.37%. Do you have an exemtion policiy? I have attached a photo.

    Ronald McDonald

    • Cemetree

      i think they should get rid of pop just because it has no nutritional value. technically, it is not even a thirst quencher. i do not think they should limit snap to just food exactly like wic though because then people like me who cook real meals would possibly not be allowed to buy certain ingredients a recipie takes. i do not buy fancy items but often if a recipie calls for a lot of things i will plan other meals in that week that include some of the same items so nothing goes to waste. i DO get wic an i am greatful that it is around but WIC is not so incredibly fantastic. all of the wheat bread you can get has high fructose corn syrup or sugar. the peanut butter you can buy has sugar.. you only get $6 for fruits and veggies yet you can get 2 FULL containers of juice. honestly i wish i could have the money the juice costs towards real fruit. but then, i am still not complaining because i do not pay for this and it does help my family out.  all in all, i am glad SNAP exists and hopefully we can be off it within 2 years.  

      • Christina Berg

        WIC is not designed for folks who cook and work, wic can be used for better dishes such as salmon , pop has nutritional value- sugar, sure its not a cheap way to get it
        but its better than juice in many cases, vitamin water has nutrients.

        • Cemetree

          i would REALLY love to know how you get the data that people who get WIC do not cook, or how people who work do not get WIC. while yes, you need a child to get WIC, or be pregnant, that does NOT mean that no one in the family works. people can work and still get WIC they just need to fall within certain guidelines of income. the guidelines happen to go to a higher income value than something like SNAP. your assertion that people who receive WIC do not cook is insane. where is your data?

          • Kris Berg

            I am referring to diet needs, infants and children require different diet needs, and are not the same as an adult who cooks for himself.


  • Tbbycatt

    As someone who does get foodstamps, I need to point out that there are a lot of elderly and disabled people who get foodstamps.  Eliminating pop is just a fraction of what the problem is.  Maybe the government should also try subsidizing fresh vegetables and fruit so these are less expensive and people will buy them with their foodstamps vs mac and cheese, or frozen pizzas.  If the reasoning is that soda isn’t healthy and so should be excluded, then following that line of reasoning ice cream, candy, hot dogs – all kinds of things should be excluded.  Soda is a huge culprit, but people on foodstamps try to stretch their food dollars and that doesn’t include fresh veggies usually, or fresh fruit either.  The problem of obesity is much more complex than just eliminating soda.

    • Christina Berg

      You say ice cream should be excluded but not sour cream , go figure.

      • Lol

        …because ice cream is loaded with sugar while sour cream is not.

  • Tanya

    Yup. If the government can tell you what doctors they will pay for with Medicaid/Medicare (and Tricare for that matter), what assessments/inventories they’ll pay those doctors do use etc. I think they can limit food stamp usage to specific foods. That’s basically what WIC does – if that’s still around. But if this is the case there should be something to ensure that healthier foods aren’t so expensive that two well-balanced meals eats the entire monthly payment. 

    • Christina Berg

      WIC is not designed for the independent individual who may in fact be a blue collar worker who has fallen on hard times, take a taco for instance, surely the corn chips that are fried, avacado, sour cream, cheese and beef make it high calorie, but junk food is hard to define, you could limit it to foods with no added nutrients, but fortification is a problem, is that fibery dark chocolate bar junk food as candy.

  • Pat

    first comment…..”land fo the free”  ???   sorry….can’t get past that…..

    second…I agree that my tax dollars shouldn’t be spent that way…leads to my tax dollars paying for medical fees later on for those who abuse their health..

    • Christina Berg

      Should a firefighter be denied a taco or soda since he needs the calories?

  • Jim Cooper

    You may have the technology, but the writing needs substantial improvement. Not only are there several typos, but a barnyard epithet that is inappropriate in a persuasive article. You can do better than this.

  • Sally1961

    Yes!! they should not be able to buy it, I was at the supermarket yesterday and a woman and her children were in front of me and all she had in her cart was sugary juices, unhealthy processed junk food, the people who truly need food can’t get it and these people get it and buy junk,then they wonder why their kids are overweight.

    • Christina Berg

      Would a bagel with cream cheese, a taco, or granola, tomato soup,white pasta junk

  • Ramona

    Of course they don’t want to limit the big ‘boys’. come on, we know who’s making that junk of soft drinks. Would they want to lose their money? Of course not. Who cares that junk makes people sick and fat? They need to sell it.

    • Christina Berg

      Really aren’t many fruit juices junk considering most of the roughage is taken out.

  • Fistuk

    I’m confused. Aren’t SNAP funds meant to be used for Supplemental Nutrition only (as the name implies)? If you can’t buy a car or a kite using SNAP funds, then why can you buy soft drinks or Lucky Charms? Neither product is food, let alone supplemental nutrition.

    Wouldn’t it be easier to have SNAP be used for the purpose intended, instead of making vague borders and definitions?

    I’m fine having my tax money feed people who are struggling to feed themselves, but I am not OK with having my tax money pay to poison people and then have even more of my tax money go to pay for those people’s medical bills.

    • Christina Berg

      soda is a nutrient and so is lucky charms, is white bread even sour cream food?

      • Chris

        You really need to educate yourself on nutrients because all the food you talk about  is bad for you.  I would love to go shopping with you so I could teach you what is healthy and what is not.  I’m not saying I know it all but I have learned the hard way and I really hate to see you go down the same road.  Just because you see an ad on TV that says it’s good for you doesn’t mean that is true.  They want you think that so you will buy it.  Just because something is approved by the FDA again doesn’t mean that it is good for you.  Take a packaged food that you eat and look up the ingredients and you will be shocked at what you learn.  Better yet research sugar and see all the health problems that it is linked to.  The only sugar you should be putting in your body should come from fruit.  I really wish someone took the time to explain this to me 20 years ago.  Maybe my child would not have been so sick for 11 years.  Please don’t take this the wrong way I’m only trying to get you to see that sugar is not a nutrient.  It is poison!  When your done looking up sugar look up GMO’S.  It will make you sick to see what is being done to our food supply.  Take care.  

        • Jim Cooper

          Sorry to disagree, but sugar (sucrose) is valuable in reasonable quantities. In excess, of course, it contributes to obesity, but it is by no means a poison. Fructose on the other hand can only be metabolized by your liver, so consuming only fructose has its own potential problems. GMOs are a topic for another day, but there is so far very little current research evidence of their being dangerous, despite our  fears.

  • Food Stamps Network

    Unemployed for two years and the checks have stopped coming so food stamps are becoming a necessity for more families.

    The amazing thing is that one in three who meet the criteria have not tried to file a food stamps application.

    Who’s to blame? Who cares? The people in need.

  • guest

    Food that can be bought on food stamps should be limited to an approved menu that does not include junk food. If this makes people on food stamps angry then they should get a job and buy their own food of choice with their own money.

    • Christina Berg

      Define junk food please, you seem to fail to realize that food stamps are used by independent individuals many of them who work and have occupations,  would you deny a farm worker on food stamps mac n cheese or fried chicken. 

      • Madmodeler

        yes and yes… water, beans, bread, eggs, that’s it 

        • Kris Berg

          Eggs have high cholesterol, and there’s nothing wrong with high calories, if your occupation requires it, we aren’t feeding infants and children.

    • Christina Berg

      Is sour cream junk food?

  • Karyn

    Regarding the comments which seem to regard food stamp recipients with resentment:  Personally, I would MUCH rather have my tax dollars go to assistance for low-income people, no strings attached, than have them wasted on the endless wars and military-industrial complex bloat that are justified in the name of “defense” of our country.  A much, much larger part of the federal budget goes to military spending than to aid programs.  Before we start holding every food stamp recipient stringently accountable for every grocery they purchase, let’s start by holding the government accountable for every penny they spend unnecessarily in the name of “defense.”

    All that being said, pop is still nutritionally worthless junk.  But blame the advertisers, and the subsidizers, and the nutritional wasteland that mainstream American culture has become.  And stop resenting the fact that “your” tax dollars are going to people who, for the most part, need the money more than you do. 

    • Christina Berg

      Defining junk is difficult, pop is not junk it contains sugar a nutrient,additives maybe
      consider a taco , folks want to ban soda and candy because of lack of education, a taco with cheese=nachos, along with sour cream, 

      • Cemetree

        actually, the refined version of sugar and/or high fructose corn syrup is NOT necessary to our bodies. our bodies can get needed glucose from many normal foods throughout the day that are eaten. plus, we are focusing on non- diet soda. would you still provide the same arguement for diet soda???

  • Michelle H

    A few years back my family had to get help from food stamps. I was shocked to see how much junk we could buy with them! I appreciated the help with my daughter’s birthday cake and ice cream. But other than special occasions, I was disappointed to see that someone could get a candy bar and a case of sodas just as easily as they could get fresh meat and vegetables.

    • Christina Berg

      Stop with stereotypes please, its easy to use soda/candy as attention gatherer, while denying that a bagel with cream cheese is just as bad or greek yogurt.

      • Madmodeler

        how is a bagel w/ cream cheese as bad as a candy bar?

  • Sarah

    Oh please. Anyone who works in a grocery store knows that all that food purchased with SNAP money at the beginning of the month gets returned at the end of the month for straight up cash to make ends meet until the next month. That’s what needs reforming first, IMO.

    • Kayla

      That’s not true at all. You have to apply separately to get cash benefits. There are different criteria. I have received SNAP benefits for a long time and I have never gotten any type of cash money. It’s a different program that uses the same card.

  • anon

    omg.. if I read one more comment about a taco eating construction worker/firefighter, i’m going to scream!!!!

    • Kris Berg

      Why, the point is that individuals have different diet needs, for instance the SNAP program allocated money, based on a thrifty food plan based on adult males, females and folks in different age groups require different calorie needs, but the SNAP program does not give less money to women, even though it does research the issue.

  • taylor willis

    Fuck you all I get 200 food stamps a month and 185 goes on foods my fam needs to survive the other 15 goes on my mountain dew and twizzlers does that make me a bad person

  • Julie Turek MontesdeOca

    I am a snap recipient. I do not like the idea of govt telling people how to live to this extent. There have been times that I had no money for food, at all without this program. It isn’t fair to make people who are already feeling low about the fact that they need assistance feel even worse by having to explain to their children why other kids can have a soda and not them. The problem is the INGREDIENTS not the consumption. When I was a kid in the 70s we drank pop like crazy, but weren’t fat. It is high fructose corn syrup that needs to be removed from sodas. It is the subsidy that is the problem. Regular cane sugar turns into energy, high fructose corn syrup turns into fat. The problem is our system of food production is done by companies that are profit driven. This is why there are chemicals in our food that are unnecessary and unsafe Food for profit is evil. Stop the obesity at the source: the producers of fat making foods. If our drinks and foods are made with healthy ingredients you will be able to eat and drink what you want without this obesity epidemic.

    • James Cooper

      I do not believe there is any evidence that HFCS is metabolized differently than cane sugar. It is just a mixture of glucose and fructose, much as cane sugar is.

  • Luna

    Just want to leave this here–I am a diabetic, though it was not caused by my eating habits in my case. I can’t have fruit juice, barely any rice (even brown rice), and have to fit milk in as one of my carb servings for a meal. Fruits count as carbs, as do peas, corn, beans, etc. My vegetable servings are limited to measured amounts..

    My approved snacks are things like: Crackers with cheese, peanut butter, cottage cheese…anything that counts as one carb serving (15g) and one protein serving.

    If I were on assistance, what would you have me eat? Would you try to fill me with carbs like brown rice and screw my blood sugar, or go hungry if I eat just the allotted amount?

    Am I only allowed to drink water with small bits of milk now and again? I can tell you, I drink mostly water all day long, but it gets tiring not to have something with flavor after a while. Diet soda’s not good for you, but a small glass makes it easier to get through the rest of the day while drinking water.

    I do not support severely limiting SNAP approved foods, because you don’t know that person’s dietary needs. You can’t possibly decide what is appropriate for them and what isn’t.

    • James Cooper

      You are absolutely right. Fortunately there is little evidence that diet soda is actually harmful.

    • Mayan Orgel

      I must tell you, I can feel your pain. I’m an asthmatic, but not because of the lifestyle I choose. I can tell you, I inhale fresh air most of the day, but it gets tiring not to get that extra fix that a cigarette gives me. Just those couple cigarettes make it easier to get that boring, flavorless, fresh air down, and they really helps me get through the day.

      It really upsets me that I can’t use food stamps to buy my cigarettes. Not only that, as if I’m not suffering enough, they even add a tax to cigarettes! I mean it’s the taxpayer’s fault that I must live this way. The taxpayer is the one that should be responsible for supporting my addictive habits. Those fascists are taking away MY RIGHT to use taxpayer money to pollute their air. I have every RIGHT to my fellow neighbor’s hard-earned money. How else will I pay for my asthma medication, or a new lung? It’s their fault that I have this condition and they need to take responsibility for it!


  • San Bak

    The only items this program should cover are necessary items, such as those listed above. Eggs, milk, potatoes, apples… This is what the programs purpose was initially intended to cover and with these provisions, definately more acceptable to us who are taxpayers and not continually using the system.

  • Amy Cosford

    As a cashier at a grocery store and a taxpayer, I see some things that go through the lane that are payed for by food stamps. I also see a lot of WIC cheques go through as well. The WIC foods that people can buy are designated. There are labels on items throughout the store that show if an item is “WIC Approved”. Why can’t food stamps incorporate the same system? It’s quite ridiculous that people are able to pay for such garbage food with their food stamps.
    On top of that, I see people going through my lanes with 2 carts full of food, all payed for with stamps. Sometimes you see people paying for someone else’s food as well. For instance, a young woman came in with her mother. Both of them had full carts of food. The mother went first and asked to use her daughter’s QUEST card. Our store policy doesn’t permit me to ask for ID for food stamps or refuse sales due to the card not belonging to her. There is a process you have to follow using WIC cheques but not food stamps. People just come in, buy whatever the hell they want, and leave.
    It’s very frustrating for me to watch people abusing such a needed program.
    I implore food stamps to take a lesson from WIC. They have it right.

  • rileytea

    I think it is enraging that tax payer’s money that should be spent on helping people in need EAT is being spent on “stuff”, not food, that is making them sick. The result is more money is spent on getting them healthy again, with nothing left over to cure children from cancer. It is simply ridiculous. Who’s interests are at hand here?

  • Nita Ostroff

    There have been times we’ve needed food stamps and been glad to get them. But regardless of whether we needed foodstamps or not, the cart has never been full of candy, sodas, Hi-C, koolaid, etc. Beans, rice, tomatoes, burger and broccoli go a lot further in feeding people. But over the years I’ve seen an incredible number of people on food stamps loading up on junk. I just want to shake them and say “you can’t afford this”.

  • Aisha

    I agree to some degree but what about all the other unhealthy things they can purchase throughout the grocery store. I worked in a supermarket for 6yrs running a coffee bar. Majority of the customers who had food stamps were purchasing a bunch of junk. From cakes, potato chips,hugs, hotdogs and etc. The government needs to set a limit on what they should be allow to purchase thats going to be beneficial to there health.

  • Ladybreck

    Can you buy beer with food stamps? Some people would consider that a necessity. No sodas, no junk food, and yes they can control it at the register. Don’t they make you separate out the food stamp items from the NON food stamp items?

  • DeeDee

    The point of food stamps is to provide nutrition. Soda doesn’t do that.

  • NoFoodsnob23

    It’s judgmental to say what people can and can not eat. Most people that on SNAP are also taxpayers. So with that thinking no one who gets taxpayer rebates, that have government loans, get disability, or retirement for that matter if you are in the armed serves you should not be able to pay for soda with tas payer money. Not all poor people are fat or drink soda all day. Maybe if everyone worried about what they put in their mouths we won’t have a problem with obesity in this country. Most people poor people have to make their ‘money’ last so they buy cheap food and also depending where they live, they have to depend on corner stores not super markets because there are no markets in the area. Many people on SNAP run out of food before the end of the month not because of poor food choices but because the price of food. You think of all the people using SNAP, there are a lot of them but people probably don’t notice the numbers because they are using cards. I will say again most people that get SNAP work. Also healthy food cost a lot more then junk food. How many times have you gone shopping and after you paid the bill do you often wonder what you spend all that money buying? Food prices have gone through the roof! The price of everything has gone up. What we taxpayer pay for the poor is a drop in the bucket compared to other areas where tax dollars are wasted. We really should get upset and worry about that. If Bloomberg is so worried about the poor maybe he should spend some of his billions feeding them or he should do something for all the homeless people in his city that are working, have good jobs but are still sleeping in shelters because the rent is so high. So remove the can from thy hand before you reach for another’s. J in Va you can not buy non food items with SNAP, SNAP is only for food products. People have their cash benefits on the same card, they pay with SNAP for food and cash for non food items.

  • Caitlin

    I think this is a great idea, I can see where people that are on the SNAP would fight it, because they are going to say they should be able to do what they want, but when the government is helping you to pay for your meals, you should listen to what they say, especially when it’s only going to benefit you.

  • Gallucci

    Hhhhmm, think there might be a little under-the-table panhandling here? You keep the restrictions off of my corporate *** & I’ll make sure the funds continue to funnel in through your office door. We’ll both STAY rich!

  • Steve M.

    I’m on the SNAP program and I’m a white male, 5’9″ 135 pounds. I appreciate greatly the help i get. I buy the healthful items and shop with coupons and really stretch the SNAP dollars. It all about if you give a f**k or not. Most don’t.

  • Lynn James

    No soda, no chips, No candy. Then they would be able to afford vegetables & fruit