NEW YORK — City and state officials here yesterday asked the USDA to remove sugar-sweetened soft drinks from the list of items that consumers are permitted to buy under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Under the proposal, New York City food stamp recipients would continue to receive the same amount of government-funded benefits, but would not be able to use food stamps to buy sugar-sweetened beverages for two years. The initiative was jointly announced by N.Y. Gov. Paterson and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. It would only apply to New York City residents.
"The use of food stamp benefits to support the purchase of sugar sweetened drinks not only contradicts the intent of this vital program, but it also subsidizes a serious public health epidemic," Paterson said in a prepared statement.
Bloomberg and Paterson cited statistics showing that obesity is almost twice as prevalent among the city's poorest households compared to the wealthiest (30% vs. 17%), and said type 2 diabetes follows a similar pattern (14% vs. 7%).
In a prepared statement, the American Beverage Association said, "There is nothing unique about the calories in sugar- sweetened beverages — which include flavored waters, sports drinks, juice drinks and teas — to justify singling them out for elimination from eligible purchases in the food stamps program in New York City," according to reports.
Earlier this year, Paterson had proposed a tax on sugary beverages to raise money to close the state budget gap, but the effort was abandoned.