Hello, Big Brother! Food Stamps Won’t Buy Soft Drinks

Hello, Big Brother! Food Stamps Won’t Buy Soft Drinks

Don’t drink your calories. That’s the message New York City and state officials are sending by proposing to the U.S. Department of Agriculture that food stamps in New York City be unable to purchase sugary drinks for the next two years.

It’s A Contained Idea

The move, according to Bloomberg, is an effort to target the rise in obesity among low-income households, where obesity is “almost twice as prevalent” as in the city’s wealthiest households. Key word there being “city”: the ban would be active only for the 1.7 million people (out of the state’s 2.9 million) using food stamps within New York City.

The Danger Lies In The Wallet

Most of us are well aware of the dangers of obesity. We know that on an individual level, obesity endangers our hearts, bones, breathing, and lives. But it takes its toll on a fiscal level as well. From Bloomberg:

Obesity-related illness costs New York state residents almost $8 billion annually, or $770 for each household, according to city and state health officials. Overweight or obese adults compose 57 percent of the city’s population, they said. Almost half, or 46 percent, of the 22,300 people hospitalized for obesity-related diabetes each year live in low- income neighborhoods.

This crusade isn’t a new one for Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Paterson. They previously moved to add a half-cent-per-ounce tax on sugared drinks in the hopes it would deter buyers, but it was blocked by beverage-industry lobbyists—an incredibly powerful force that is none too happy about preventing food stamps from buying sugared drinks.

Your High Horse Is Dehydrated

We understand the righteous zeal behind manipulating the food and drink consumption of people who appear to need assistance in many ways. We know it’s tempting to try to fix situations—and people—and that almost any move can be justified with a statistic or two. But we also don’t see the point in getting too enraged about this micromanagement of New York residents, as Big Beverage will never let it happen. The beverage lobby is one of the most powerful in the country, and they’ve stopped movements like this in the past with a hefty payout. It isn’t our place to judge lifestyle or beverage choices. It isn’t up to us to determine how food stamps are spent. And neither is it up to the government.

Tell us in the comments: Is the idea of disallowing food stamps to be spent on sugary drinks a good one? Will it ever come to pass?


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