An op-ed in today’s NY Times makes a clear distinction in the “nutrition loophole” when citizens used food stamps to pay for groceries.
Recipients [of food stamps] aren’t allowed to buy everything a grocery store might sell. The federal government bars the use of food stamps to buy cigarettes, beer, wine, liquor or prepared foods like deli sandwiches and restaurant entrees. Still, the program, which is supposed to promote nutrition as well as reduce hunger, has a serious flaw: food stamps can be used to buy soda and other sweetened drinks.
Every year, tens of millions of federal dollars are spent on sweetened beverages in New York City through the food stamp program — far more than is spent on obesity prevention. This amounts to an enormous subsidy to the sweetened beverage industry.
This is an easy fix. A necessary one too. The food stamp program should be modified that recipients cannot purchase beverages with more than 10 calories per ounce (with exceptions to milk and juice that has sugar, but has vitamins and other nutritional items). This op-ed came about because New York state is asking the Dept of Agriculture to us NYC as a test-model for this modification. Let’s hope it happens.