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Banning Soda Under The Snap Program


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Paper written for Health Policy class as part of my MHA degree.

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Banning Soda Under The Snap Program

  1. 1. Running head: BANNING SODA 1 Banning Soda under the SNAP Program: A Policy Review Richard Krasner Florida Atlantic University HSA 6152 Health Policy Dr. Valentine December 2, 2010
  2. 2. Running head: BANNING SODA 2 Table of ContentsIntroduction ................................................................................................................................... 3The Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 ........................................................................................... 5Obesity and Soda: The Science .................................................................................................... 7The Controversy.......................................................................................................................... 11Conclusion ................................................................................................................................... 20References .................................................................................................................................... 24
  3. 3. Running head: BANNING SODA 3 Introduction In October, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York asked for permission from thefederal government to conduct a two-year social and scientific experimentto fight the growingnational obesity problem. Mayor Bloomberg‟s request centered on his decision to ban recipientsof food stamps under the SNAP program (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) frompurchasing soda and other soft drinks containing excessive amounts of sugar.As part of theexperiment, Bloomberg promised that New York would collect data on whether individuals onfood stamps were using their benefits on healthier choices, such as fruits and vegetables, insteadof soda and snacks that contained too many calories and very little nutrition (Hartocollis, 2010). The issue of obesity in the U.S. is a major health issue facing this nation, as evidenced byFirst Lady Michelle Obama‟s campaign to get more children to eat healthy foods at home and inschool. Coupled with the fact that heart disease is the number one cause of death in the US; andgiven the medical model of health care prevalent in the US health care system, individuallifestyle and behavior and environment are some of the reasons behind this surge in obesity.Considerable research exists that one‟s lifestyle and behavior has a lot to do with becomingobese, and your environment (affluence or poverty) is more likely to have an impact on youroverall health and well-being. Figure 1 indicates which US States have the highest percentage ofobese adults, and Figure 2 shows that the best educated Americans have the lowest obesity, asmeasured by income level and education level.
  4. 4. Running head: BANNING SODA 4Figure 1. Figure 2.Source: CQ Researcher (2010) This paper will discuss the issue of whether banning the use of food stamps for thepurchase of sodas and other sugar-laden drinks is a good idea, and if it is in keeping with currentfederal policy on foods eligible for purchase under the SNAP program. The issue is contentiousand as I will show in this paper, there are many sides to this issue, with many supporters of aban, and many opponents, some of whom make for strange bedfellows. In the end, I will offersome recommendations as to where the policy process should go next, and what conclusions Ihave reached about this issue.
  5. 5. Running head: BANNING SODA 5 The Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 FOOD AND NUTRITION ACT OF 2008 [As Amended Through P.L. 110-246, Effective October 1, 2008] AN ACTSec. 1. SHORT TITLETo strengthen the agricultural economy; to help to achieve a fuller and more effective use of food abundances; to provide for improved levels of nutrition among low-income households through a cooperative Federal-State program of food assistance to be operated through normal channels of trade; and for other purposes. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,[7 U.S.C. 2011 note]That this act may be cited as the “Food and Nutrition Act of 2008”. DECLARATION OF POLICY Sec. 2.[7 U.S.C. 2011] It is hereby declared to be the policy of Congress, in order to promote the general welfare, tosafeguard the health and well-being of the Nation‟s population by raising levels of nutritionamong low-income households. Congress hereby finds that the limited food purchasing power oflow-income households contributes to hunger and malnutrition among members of suchhouseholds. Congress further finds that increased utilization of food in establishing andmaintaining adequate national levels of nutrition will promote the distribution in a beneficialmanner of the Nation‟s agricultural abundance and will strengthen the Nation‟s agriculturaleconomy, as well as result in more orderly marketing and distribution of foods. To alleviate suchhunger and malnutrition, a supplemental nutrition assistance program is herein authorized whichwill permit low-income households to obtain a more nutritious diet through normal channels oftrade by increasing food purchasing power for all eligible households who apply forparticipation.
  6. 6. Running head: BANNING SODA 6 DEFINITIONS Sec. 3.[7 U.S.C. 2012] (k) “Food” means (1) any food or food product for home consumption except alcoholicbeverages, tobacco, and hot foods or hot food products ready for immediate consumption otherthan those authorized pursuant to clauses (3), (4), (5), (7), (8), and (9) ofthis subsection, (2) seedsand plants for use in gardens to produce food for the personal consumption of the eligiblehousehold. (p) “Retail food store” means― (1) an establishment or house-to-house trade route that sells food for home preparation and consumption and― (A) offers for sale, on a continuous basis, a variety of foods in each of the 4 categories of staple foods specified in subsection (r) (1), including perishable foods in at least 2 of the categories; or (B) has over 50 percent of the total sales of the establishment or route in staple foods, as determined by visual inspection, sales records, purchase records, counting of stockkeeping units, or other inventory or accounting recordkeeping methods that are customary or reasonable in the retail food industry; Sec. 3. (r) (1) Except as provided in paragraph (2), “staple foods” means foods in the following categories: (A) Meat, poultry, or fish. (B) Bread or cereals. (C) Vegetables or fruits. (D) Dairy products. (2) “Staple foods” do not include accessory food items, such as coffee, tea, cocoa, carbonated and uncarbonated drinks, candy, condiments, andspices. Sec. 4.[7 U.S.C. 2013](a)…The benefits so received by such households shall be used onlyto purchase food from retail food stores which have been approved for participation in thesupplemental nutrition assistance program.
  7. 7. Running head: BANNING SODA 7 Obesity and Soda: The Science Determining the exact cause for the obesity epidemic, as it has been sometimes referredto, is difficult because of the many factors and variables that enter into the equation as to whyAmericans are overweight and obese. One possible factor that scientists have identified is theconsumption of sugar-sweetened drinks by both children and adults. One such study with regardto children took place in Massachusetts from October, 1995 to May, 1997. (Ludwig, Peterson, &Gortmaker, 2001) enrolled 548 ethnically diverse schoolchildren, ages 7 - 11 from public schoolsin four communities in the Boston, Massachusetts metropolitan area. They examined theassociation between the baseline and change in consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks(independent variable), and the difference in measures of obesity with linear and logicalregression analyses that were adjusted for confounding variables and clustering of results withinthe schools. They found that for each additional serving of sugar-sweetened drinks consumed, bothbody mass index (BMI) and frequency of obesity increased. They adjusted for anthropometric,demographic, dietary and lifestyle variables. Baseline consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks,they found was also associated with changes in BMI. Their interpretation of the results indicatedthat consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks is associated with obesity in children.(Apovian,2004) cited Ludwig et al. in an editorial for JAMA, where she said becoming obese increased 1.6times for each additional sugar-sweetened drink consumed. She pointed to an article in the sameissue of JAMA by Schulze and colleagues that provided additional evidence that excess caloriesfrom sugar-sweetened drinks are responsible for increased obesity in adults as well, and alsoimplicates such drinks as a cause of type 2 diabetes.
  8. 8. Running head: BANNING SODA 8 A more recent study was conducted in California by the California Center for PublicHealth Advocacy incollaborationwith the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, using datafrom the 2005 California Health Interview Survey. Entitled Bubbling Over: Soda Consumptionand Its Link to Obesity in California,(Babey, Jones, Yu, & Goldstein, 2009) determined that inCalifornia, 62% of children, 12 – 17 and 41% of children, 2 – 11 drink at least one soda or othersweetened beverage every day. For adults, they found that 24% of them drink at least one soda orother sweetened beverage on an average day. Adults who drink soda occasionally were 15%more likely to be overweight or obese; adults who drink one or more sodas per day are 27%more likely to be overweight or obese than adults who did not drink soda, adjusting for poverty,race and ethnicity. They found major differences in soda consumption rates by geographic area (by city andcounty), that suggested that social and environmental factors affect the consumption of soda.Table 1 indicates where the highest percentages of children, adolescents and adults who drinkone or more sodas per day and areoverweight or obese, by county are. Table 1. Top Ten California Counties where Percentage of Children, Adolescents and Adults Drink One or More Sodas per Day andPercentage of Adults Who Are Overweight or Obese % of Children % of Adolescents % of Adults % of Adults Who Ages 2 – 11 Ages 12 – 17 Drinking One County Are Overweight or One or More One or More or More Sodas Obese Sodas Sodas per Day San Joaquin 44.2 77.8 26.6 70 Imperial 60.7 61.2 36.4 67.1 Merced 55.4 * 32.7 66.6 Kern 55.0 67.2 36.6 66.2 Tulare 44.2 71.0 36.1 66.1 Tehama, Glenn, Colusa 36.8 * 30.1 65.7 San Bernardino 49.6 68.5 29.6 64.7 Yuba 50.5 62.9 30.9 64 San Benito 26.4 58.9 25.6 63.9 Madera 39.9 75.3 37.4 63.8 Note: * Indicates the estimate was not statistically reliable Source: (CHIS 2005)
  9. 9. Running head: BANNING SODA 9 The top four largest cities in California,Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose and SanFrancisco are shown in Table 2 with the percentages of children, adolescents and adults whodrink one or more sodas per day and the percentage of adults in those cities who are overweightor obese. Table 2. Percentage of Children, Adolescents and Adults Drinking One or More Sodas per Day and Percentage of Adults Who Are Overweight or Obese in the Top Four California Cities, by Population City % of Children % of Adults % of Adults Who Are and Adolescents Age 18 and Overweight or Obese Ages 2 – 17 Over Drinking Drinking One or One or More more Sodas per Sodas per Day Day Los Angeles 51.9 24.8 55.9 San Diego 46.2 22.8 54.7 San Jose 42.8 21.7 50 San Francisco 36.9 11.5 42.6 Source: (CHIS 2005) For children and adolescents, being overweight and obese is associated with increasedrisk for cardiovascular disease indicators including high total cholesterol, high blood pressure,and high fasting insulin, an early indicator of diabetes risk. Being overweight and obese aschildren means they are more likely to be overweight and obese as adults, according to (Babey etal., 2009). For adults, overweight and obesity is associated with increased risk for diabetes, heartdisease, stroke, some types of cancer and premature death. Among the diverse ethnic groups found in California, Mexican-Americans are perhapsthe largest minority group in the state, and perhaps one of the poorest, as well.(Warner, Harley,Bradman, Vargas & Eskanazi, 2006) enrolled six hundred pregnant women and followed 354Mexican-American children during a longitudinal study by The Center for the HealthAssessment of Mothers and Children of Salinas. The initial study lasted from October 1999 to
  10. 10. Running head: BANNING SODA 10October 2000. The women were interviewed twice during their pregnancies (13 and 26 weeks),shortly after delivery and when the children were 6, 12, and 24 months of age. During each interview, data was collected about the family, work histories, maternal andpersonal characteristics and habits, pregnancy and medical histories, child-based developmentalmilestones and diet and behavioral data. At the 24 month follow-up, the standing height incentimeters and weight in grams were measured.Mothers were asked about how often theirchildren drank sodas in the past 7 days, they asked how often their children ate fast food orsweets in the past 7 days, they asked the mothers if they were still breast-feeding, and finallythey asked how many hours their children played outside or watched television or videos. Overweight was determined at ≥95th percentile of the sex-specific BMI for each child‟sage.At risk for overweight was determined as at or above the 85th percentile, but less than the95th percentile of sex-specific BMI for age. Their results showed that fifty-five of the childrenwere overweight (15.5%), and over half (56%) reported consuming any soda in the last week.The prevalence of overweight children in the cohort is higher than the prevalencereported(11.1%) for 259 Mexican-American children 2- 5 years of age in the U.S. NationalHealth and Nutrition Examination Study. These results are higher than those reported for otherethnic groups (non-Hispanic whites, 10.1%; non-Hispanic blacks, 8.4%).The odds of beingoverweight increased more than 3-fold among children who drank at least 1 soda per day. Theirfindings are consistent with other similar studies that found an association between sweetenedbeverages and being overweight. This brief examination of the science behind obesity and soda and other sweetened drinkconsumption is just the tip of the iceberg. Many more studies exist that show a strong correlationbetween drinking soda and sweetened drinks and obesity and being overweight. This paper can
  11. 11. Running head: BANNING SODA 11only shed some light on what we already know and on what basis health advocates are basingtheir calls for slowing down or reversing the national obesity trend. The next section will focuson the controversy surround the issue of banning the use of the national food stamp program,SNAP to purchase such drinks, especially for children, since they are most at risk of not onlybeing obese as children, but as adults as well. The Controversy In researching the topic of this paper, I discovered there are actually two controversies,not one. The first controversy is the subject of this paper; Mayor Bloomberg‟s request to conductan experiment banning the use of food stamps for the purchase of soda and other sweetened softdrinks. A side piece to this controversy is the suggestion made by many health advocates andothers, that sodas and other beverages be taxed, not unlike the tax on cigarettes. This suggestionhas been rejected by big beverage and by advocates for the poor for obvious reasons, and has notbeen a very popular idea with the general public, in light of the economic and political climate inrecent years. Those who are concerned about the rising rate of obesity in this country are leftwith few other options but the one proposed by Mayor Bloomberg, as we shall see. Since becoming New York‟s mayor in 2001, Michael Bloomberg has conducted acampaign to improve the health and well-being of New Yorkers. Among some of the earlierefforts he has undertaken have been expanding the city‟s ban on smoking to almost all indoorspaces such as bars and restaurants, banning the use of trans-fats in restaurants, and requiringrestaurants to post calorie counts on their menus (Roberts, 2010). Each of his previous attemptsto improve New York‟s health were met with considerable opposition, but he always succeededin getting the city council to go along with him.
  12. 12. Running head: BANNING SODA 12 His latest proposal has produced an unlikely alliance in opposition to his plan. Anti-hunger and anti-poverty groups are working alongside the food industry to fight Bloomberg‟splan(Hartocollis, 2010). They are taking on the nation‟s health czars, including The Center forScience in the Public Interest and NYS‟ influential health commissioner, Dr. Thomas A.Farley.One such organization, the Food Research and Action Center, which is dedicated tofighting hunger, came out against the idea because in their words, “it would „perpetuate themyth‟ that people who use food stamps make bad choices at the supermarket.” Bloomberg‟s proposal has also put a spotlight on an unusual relationship between anti-hunger groups and the food industry that goes back to the 1930‟s as part of an effort to helpfarmers distribute surplus farm commodities, as well as helping the poor. This continued up untilthe 1960‟s when the food stamp program began as part of Lyndon Johnson‟s War on Poverty.Food stamps were designed to enlarge the choices of the poor and hungry, not to limit them tothe most nutritious items; as such alcohol and tobacco are banned. Bloomberg and the health lobby argue that the diets afforded by food stamps havebecome too appetizing. Anti-hunger groups suggest that Bloomberg‟s proposal picks up on adebate that is being thrashed out in Washington over health care and other issues; how powerfulshould the federal government be in controlling human behavior? Those opposed to Bloomberg‟sproposal argue they are defending free will and the right to make reasonable adult choices. Anti-hunger groups fear that banning “bad foods” will lead to cutting the program. Ross Fraser, aspokesperson for Feeding America, a national network of more than 200 food banks, in an emailstated that “the group has consistently worked with a coalition of other advocacy organizations,food manufacturers and retailers to oppose efforts to restrict SNAP (food stamp) choice”. The
  13. 13. Running head: BANNING SODA 13chairman of Feeding America is an executive at Kraft Foods, and other members of theorganization work at ConAgra, Mars, Kroger and Wal-Mart. In a side note to the on-going discussion over Mayor Bloomberg‟s plan, he recentlyappointed Cathleen P. Black as his choice for NYC‟s schools chancellor (Barbaro & Hartocollis,2010). Ms. Black sat on the board of directors of Coca-Cola for 18 years, while at the same time;Coke was one of the biggest and more aggressive opponents of scientists, lawmakers andeducators who tried to sound the alarm on the national obesity trend. Coke unleashed a flurry oflobbyists, donations and advertising to fight the efforts, and local officials described it as“bullying” and “unconscionable”. She also sat on a committee that focused on policy issues that included obesity andselling soda to children. She was aware of internal debates about Coke‟s combative strategy, andthere was no evidence she challenged it.According to Donald McHenry, another member of theboard, “I don‟t think we‟ve gone to a single meeting in the last two years where we haven‟tdiscussed that issue.” Ms. Black resigned from the Coke board the week of November 15th, citing a conflict ofinterest. While she was on the Coke board, pressure mounted on soda producers to limit sales inpublic schools. This came as a result of the Surgeon General, David Satcher declaring obesity anational crisis in 2001. In 2003, both California and New York City banned the sale of softdrinks in elementary and middle schools. Despite the opposition and criticism over his appointment of a former Coca-Cola boardmember to a major position in his administration, Mayor Bloomberg has some valid reasons forhis decision to request a waiver from the USDA. More than 1.7 million people in NYC receivefood stamps. Data from the USDA show that sugary drinks account for 6% of food stamp use
  14. 14. Running head: BANNING SODA 14nationwide. In NYC, that translates to $75 million or more of subsidized sugary drinks a year(Hensley, 2010). Figure 3 shows where in the city people drink more than one sugar-sweetenedbeverage per day, and where the rates of obesity are the highest. Figure 3. Source: (NPR, 2010)In addition, obesity-related illness costs New York State close to $8 billion in medical costs each year(Baltimore Sun, 2010). In applying for the waiver from the USDA, NYC recognized one of the major criticismleveled against the proposal that banning sodas could stigmatize people who depend on foodstamps, echoing what the anti-hunger groups had said. However, their application acknowledgedthat “there are already certain items that cannot be purchased with SNAP benefits, such as
  15. 15. Running head: BANNING SODA 15alcoholic beverages and hot foods prepared for immediate consumption…The extension of thelist of prohibited items would not create any stigma that does not already exist.” But perhaps the most powerful argument against the proposal comes from the USDA‟sFood and Nutrition Service itself, whose report, Implications of Restricting the Use of FoodStamp Benefits (USDA, 2007) listed the following reasons: 1. No Clear standards exist for defining foods as good or bad, or healthy or not healthy. Federal dietary guidance uniformly applies to the total diet – no widely accepted standards to judge the “healthfulness” of individual foods. Foods contain many components that can affect health, and diets contain many foods. It is challenging to determine whether the presence or absence of desirable nutrients outweighs the presence of nutrients to be avoided in ruling a food “in” or “out”. 2. Implementation of food restrictions would increase program complexity and costs. There are more than 300,000 food products on the market, and an average of 12,000 new products introduced each year between 1990 and 2000. Responsibility for enforcing compliance would rest in hands of employees at check-out counters. While many have modern scanning and inventory control systems, others do not, especially small stores and specialty markets. New effort would be needed to help participants avoid the rejection of purchases at the check-out counter. 3. Restrictions may be ineffective in changing the purchases of food stamp participants. About 70% of all food stamp participants who receive less than the maximum benefit, are expected to purchase a portion of their food with their own
  16. 16. Running head: BANNING SODA 16 money. No guarantee that restricting the use of food stamps would affect food purchases. 4. No evidence exists that food stamp participation contributes to poor diet quality or obesity. No strong research-based evidence to support restricting food stamp benefits. Food stamp recipients are no more likely than higher-income consumers to choose food with little nutritional value; thus basis for singling out low- income food stamp recipients and restricting their choices is not clear. The report‟s conclusion states there are better ways to work towards the goal of healthierdiets that do not require restrictions. The Food and Nutrition Service recommends incentives toencourage purchases of certain foods or expanded nutrition education to enable participants tomake healthy choices. This is echoed by a more recent report published in October 2010 entitled, PreventingObesity (CQ Researcher, 2010), in which Heather Hartline-Grafton, Senior Nutrition PolicyAnalyst for the Food Research and Action Center, in a section called At Issue: Should soda beexcluded from foods food-stamp users can buy?, stated that there are deep flaws in a strategy thatlimits consumer choice. She lists seven reasons why this is a flawed strategy: 1. No evidence that SNAP contributes to the current obesity problem. 2. Foods commonly proposed for restriction include sugar-sweetened beverages, carbonated soft drinks, sweets and salty snacks. Research shows that consumption of these foods and general purchasing habits are similar, if not better, among SNAP participants compared to non-participants.
  17. 17. Running head: BANNING SODA 17 3. Trying to control SNAP participants‟ use of tax dollars is a slippery slope: Concerns about public dollars for certain foods could be used to justify purchases by Social Security beneficiaries, government employees or medical providers reimbursed by Medicaid. 4. Given the stream of new or reformulated food products, constant updates to the list of eligible foods would create a logistical nightmare and higher costs for all consumers. 5. Not only is it unclear how to identify foods for disallowance, doing so would drag Congress, USDA and lobbyists into political, not scientific “food fights” over lists of “good” and “bad” foods. 6. No evidence that food restrictions would change purchases or dietary intake. SNAP consumers could purchase ineligible foods with their own money, since most only receive partial benefits. 7. Purchasing restrictions would increase stigma and confusion at check-out counters. It is clear from the Implications report and the At Issue: section of the Preventing Obesityreport, that the Food and Nutrition Service, the agency that administers the SNAP program andthe anti-hunger groups are working closely with the food industry because every objection theyraise to restricting eligible foods under the SNAP program fits neatly into the desire of big foodand big beverage to sell their most unhealthy foods, soft drinks and snacks to the poor. Given all we know about the overall health, or lack of it, among the poorestAmericans;shouldn‟t the people responsible for ending hunger and providing supplemental foodbenefits be more concerned with the overall nutrition and health of their recipients and people
  18. 18. Running head: BANNING SODA 18they advocate for, rather than giving them carte blanche to eat whatever they want just so long asthey are getting something in their stomachs? Doesn‟t it make sense for the federal departmentthat connects the nation‟s farmers with the American people to stress the more healthy foodchoices available, rather than acting on behalf of the corn lobby, the sugar lobby and thebeverage lobby? A disconnect exists between the concept of good health through food and nutrition, andthe idea of preventing hunger and starvation. We don‟t send Cheese Doodles and Pringles tothird-world starving masses, so why should allow our own citizens to buy the same items withtax dollars? Shouldn‟t benefits be used to buy good food, not junk food? The second controversy that I mentioned earlier in this paper has to do with the wordingfound in the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008, and the wording found on the webpage of theSNAP program on the USDA‟s website. In Section 3 (k), the term “Food” is defined as “(1) anyfood or food product for home consumption except alcoholic beverages, tobacco, and hot foodsor hot food products ready for immediate consumption… (2) seeds and plants for use in gardensto produce food for the personal consumption of the eligible household”. However, further downthe section, in paragraph (r) (1), the term “staple food: is defined as: Meat, poultry, and fish;Bread and cereals; Vegetables and fruits; and Dairy products. Clause (2) states that “Staplefoods” do not include accessory food items, such as coffee, tea, cocoa, carbonated anduncarbonated drinks, candy, condiments, and spices. When I noticed this in the Act, I looked at the agency‟s webpage and noticed that theagency defined two types of food under the SNAP program, eligible food and ineligible food.Eligible foods corresponded to the foods listed in the Act under “staple foods”, as well as section3 (k) (2) where it mentions seeds and plants. Further down the page, soft drinks, candy, cookies,
  19. 19. Running head: BANNING SODA 19snack crackers, and ice cream were considered food items, and therefore eligible food itemsunder SNAP. Seafood, steak, and bakery items were also included (USDA, 2010). I contacted the SNAP program by telephone and left a message for someone to respondto my inquiry as to why there was a discrepancy between the wording of the Act and the wordingon the website. I received a return phone call later that afternoon from Shanta Swezy (personalcommunication, November 12, 2010), a Program Analyst with the SNAP program. I pointed outto her the differences between the Act and the website, and her response was that the website iscorrect. She also told me that her agency could not discuss the matter of New York‟s request fora waiver as well as providing me with a clearer answer to my question because it was underreview. I followed up with an email in which I reiterated my confusion about the website beingcorrect and the Act also being correct. I told her that both could not be correct. I informed herthat such confusion would make it difficult for me to reach a definite conclusion. I received a reply back from her on the following Monday (personal communication,November 15, 2010) in which she pointed out that food that is eligible for purchase with SNAPbenefits [emphasis added] is defined in section 3 (k) of the Act. She also pointed out that thebenefits received by household shall be used only to purchase food[emphasis added] from retailfood stores which have been approved for participation in the SNAP program. I informed her inmy follow-up email that I would contact either my congressman‟s office or that of my U.S.Senator. I called the office of Congressman Ted Deutch and was transferred to his Washingtonoffice and spoke with Ellen McLaren, Congressman Deutch‟s Legislative Director. She told methat this issue may end up in litigation.
  20. 20. Running head: BANNING SODA 20 Conclusion At the beginning of this paper I said that the issue of banning the use of food stamps topurchase soda and other sugar-sweetened drinks was contentious, and that is certainly true,especially since the USDA‟s Food and Nutrition Service and several anti-hunger and anti-poverty groups have come out against it. These groups have aligned themselves with the foodand beverage lobby to oppose any effort to restrict food stamp users from buying soda and otherless nutritious foods. Clearly the anti-hunger and anti-poverty groups that have joined forces withthe food and beverage industries do not believe that poor people should eat healthy foods, onlythat they have something, anything in their stomachs that will alleviate hunger. When you alsofactor in that the Food and Nutrition Service rejects the idea of restricting unhealthy foods forlow-income people, you get a very powerful “cabal” mobilized against anyone who wants toimprove the health and well-being of the poor. Some of the solutions offered by the Food and Nutrition Service‟s report are reasonable,such as using incentives to encourage purchases of selected foods, however they do not elaborateas to how that would work. Both the FNS and Hartline-Grafton recommend using food stamps atfarmers‟ markets (USDA, 2007; CQ Researcher, 2010), as well as enhancing SNAP nutritioneducation. Hartline-Grafton also recommends increasing access to healthy, affordable foods inunderserved communities. These and many other recommendations are worth considering and implementing,however, given the state of the US economy and the desire by some to cut federal spending andeliminate waste and abuse, it may make sense from the point of overall government spending toinsure that tax money is being spent wisely. Yet still the problem remains that the Food andNutrition Act of 2008 still defines sodas, candy, cookies, cakes and other bakery goods, and ice
  21. 21. Running head: BANNING SODA 21cream as eligible food items, while a different section of the Act defines staple foods as notincluding those items. Mayor Bloomberg‟s foray into this issue has opened up a debate as towhat exactly is meant by the terms “food” and “staple foods” and why there is no agreement thatyou cannot have a law that says something is ok, when another part of that law says it is not ok.That does not make sense, and the fact that it is under review, along with NYC‟s request meansthat I cannot make a definitive policy proposal at this time. However, I can offer the following recommendations, that can be considered now orwhen the review is completed and a final determination one way or the other has been made.Here are my recommendations: 1. NYC should be granted a waiver from the USDA to conduct their two-year experiment. NYC and NYS has a long history of social experiments that have improved the lives of millions of poor, working class people and immigrants, and their descendants living today are proof positive of their success. 2. Sec. 3. [7 U.S.C. 2012](k) must be, not should be, amended to redefine the definition of “food” to eliminate any confusion and discrepancies between that subsection and subsection (r) (1) that defines the term “staple foods” as foods in the following categories: (A) Meat, poultry, or fish. (B) Bread or cereals. (C) Vegetables or fruits. (D) Dairy products. Sec. 3. [7 U.S.C. 2012] (k) must also be amended to include the definitions found in subsection (r) (2).
  22. 22. Running head: BANNING SODA 22 3. All federal food and nutrition programs (SNAP, WIC, SBP, NSLP, etc.) must be brought in line and all requirements for what constitutes nutritious food must be uniform. 4. The idea of incentives as recommended in the FNS report should be considered, once there is a clear understanding of how that would be implemented, also expanded nutrition education should be adopted, as well as other valid recommendations. 5. Taxpayers have a right to expect that their tax dollars are being spent wisely; they must expect that their taxes will not be used to purchase junk food, sodas, and other unhealthy food products that can damage the health of food stamp users, and add additional burdens on the taxpayers in the form of higher health care expenditures. 6. Supermarket chains must be encouraged to provide low income neighborhoods with concept stores that will provide them with access to a variety of staple foods and nutritious options to sugary beverages, processed foods and snacks. They should also provide the same health items found at higher-income stores such as Whole Foods Market that can be of benefit in improving their overall well-being. 7. There needs to be more minority-owned, minority-run, and minority-centered supermarkets and grocery stores such as Sedano‟s and Fiesta that cater to particular ethnic groups with nutritious foods from their own culture that comply with all federal guidelines for good nutrition. 8. The FNS must stop being a captive of the food and beverage industry, and better and more effective regulation needs to be implemented so that industry and the
  23. 23. Running head: BANNING SODA 23 agency do not work hand-in-hand to undermine the health and well-being of the poorest and most vulnerable segment of our society. 9. After the review process is completed, states, cities and local municipalities must be allowed to experiment with any methods they deem necessary to help combat obesity in their jurisdictions. 10. Congress must ascertain that all laws pertaining to nutrition, whether for adults, children and infants are interpreted and carried out as intended, and not subject to arbitrary interpretation by the USDA and its subordinate agencies charged with the health and well-being of all Americans.
  24. 24. Running head: BANNING SODA 24 ReferencesApovian, C.M. (2004). Sugar-Sweetened Soft Drinks, Obesity, and Type 2 Diabetes, JAMA, 292(8), 978-979. doi: 10.1001/jama.292.8.978. Retrieved from, S.H., Jones, M., Yu, H., & Goldstein, H. (2009), Bubbling Over: Soda Consumption and Its Link to Obesity in California, UCLA Health Policy Research Brief, Retrieved from, M., Hartocollis, A. (2010, November 16). As Bloomberg Fought Soda, Nominee Sat On Coke Board, The New York Times, pp. A22, A24.CQ Researcher Online. (2010). Preventing Obesity, 20(34), 813. Retrieved from 00100&type=hitlist&num=0Editorial: Our View: New York‟s idea to cut down on obesity worth a look. [Editorial]. (2010). The Baltimore Sun, A.14. Retrieved from,0,7103138.storyFood and Nutrition Act of 2008, 7 U.S.C. § 2011 – 2012 (2008) Retrieved from, A. (2010, October 17). Let Them Eat Broccoli,Week In Review, The New York Times, pp. 4.Ludwig, D.S., Peterson, K. E., & Gortmaker, S.L. (2001). Relation between consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks and childhood obesity: a prospective, observational analysis, The Lancet, 357, 505-508. Retrieved from Relation%20between%20consumption%20of%20sugar-sweetened%20drinks%20
  25. 25. Running head: BANNING SODA 25 and%20childhood%20obesity%20-%20a%20prospective,%20observational %20analysis.pdfRoberts, S. (2010, November 9). Times Topics online article, The New York Times, Retrieved from michael_r_bloomberg/index.htmlS Hensley. (2010, October 7). New York City Wants to Ban Food Stamps For Sodas [NPR‟s Health Blog]. Retrieved from 130399285/new-york-city-wants-to-ban-food-stamps-for-sodasUCLA Center for Health Policy Research, (2009). Bubbling Over: Soda Consumption and Its Link to Obesity in California, Fact Sheet, Retrieved from n%20and%20Obesity%20Fact%20Sheet.pdfU.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service. (2007). Implications of Restricting The Use of Food Stamp Benefits. Retrieved from ora/menu/Published/snap/FILES/ProgramOperations/FSPFoodRestrictions.pdfU.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program website, Retrieved from, M.L., Harley, K., Bradman, A., Vargas, G., & Eskanazi, B. (2006). Soda Consumption and Overweight Status of 2-Year-Old Mexican-American Children in California, Obesity, 14(11). 1966-1974. Retrieved from full/oby2006230a.html