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FOOD STAMPS: Banning Pop Could Cut Obesity

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(CNNMoney) — Banning soda and other sugary drinks from food stamps would lead to significant drops in obesity and diabetes rates among the poor, according to a new study.

It would prevent at least 141,000 kids from getting fat and another 240,000 adults from developing Type 2 diabetes, the kind that usually stems from obesity, according to Stanford University medical researchers in a study published in the June issue of the academic journal Health Affairs.

“It’s as big an impact as I’ve seen,” said lead researcher Sanjay Basu, an assistant professor of medicine at the Stanford Prevention Research Center.

Basu started the study to explore criticism that the federal food stamp program, officially called Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), subsidizes the purchase of sugary drinks that offer no nutritional value.

Over the years, several studies have shown that poor families on food stamps tend to have much higher rates of obesity and diabetes than the rest of the population.

“There are complaints that (taxpayers) are getting charged twice, once for the SNAP program and then again for the Medicaid and Medicare costs when people get diseases,” Basu said.

Food stamps is big business for the beverage industry. A separate 2012 study found more than $2 billion in food stamps each year goes to sales of sugary drinks, according to Yale University researchers. That amounted to 58% of beverages purchased on food stamps.

Overall, obesity rates among food stamps users would go down by 2.4% over 10 years, according to the study. That might not seem like much for the 46.1 million people who depend on the safety-net program.

However, in the world of health policy, that’s a lot, said Basu.

Christopher Gindlesperger, spokesman for the American Beverage Association said “obesity is a complex health condition.” He called the obesity reduction rates in the study “insignificant.”

“Targeting struggling families who rely on SNAP’s vital safety net will not make America healthier or reduce government spending,” Gindlesperger said.

Efforts to ban sugary drinks from food stamps haven’t made much progress. In 2011, New York City’s former Mayor Michael Bloomberg tried to get permission to ban food stamp purchases of soda in that city. The U.S. Department of Agriculture told him no, calling the effort “too large and complex.”

Last year, Bloomberg and 17 other mayors wrote to Congress last year, asking them to ban sugary drinks from food stamps.

Last year, Rep. Phil Roe, a Tennessee Republican and doctor, proposed new limits on food stamps that would ban their use for junk food but that measure hasn’t been considered by a committee.


  • John

    You should only be able to get nutritious food and drink with SNAP or any other aid program. These programs are there to provide your needs, not for luxuries. If you want luxuries, you need to pay for them yourself. Soda pop, cigarettes and alcohol are luxuries.

    • Liz

      Your right John, where I come from I see grandparents/parents buying candy, soda and chips..Even buy beef jerky!! I don’t see how that is nutritious…Lots of junk food…

  • pat scarset

    Then take away all the juicy juice too! That had more sugars than soda does! Win says for kids to drink 3 cups of it a day!! Ummm… somethings wrong with this picture! You are either addicted to it or not regardless if you have food stamps or not!! I don’t see people loosing weight because you ban buying it with food stamps. People don’t realize, almost everything you consume in a day has lots of bad things for the body in them. Maybe we should ban all food! Now that don’t make sense does it? You just can’t pick out drinks and foods and ban them from certain people because YOU BELIEVE they contribute to obesity.

  • Jessica Bowman

    This study is crap. Cutting access to any food or drink will not stop obesity. Just like raising the price of cigarettes wont make people stop smoking. If you want the children in this nation to be healthier and not obese, increase recess, physical education, make sports available and or FREE to the poor, and reduce the cost of gym/pool memberships or find a way to get it free. MOVE YOUR BUTTS!!!

    • John

      Have you ever checked into the YMCA? No one is turned away for inability to pay. They have a sliding scale. Because my family can afford it, we pay a larger membership. Many of those in our community who can afford it make monetary donations to the Y regularly. That money is used, in part, to supplement the membership of those who cannot, unfortunately, afford to pay for their own membership.

      Most schools have playgrounds that are available, free of charge, to anyone who wants to use them when the school is not actively using them.

      Lots of churches have open gym several times a week where people, not just members, can come and use their space for free.

      Also, it is pretty cheap to get a soccer ball/football/Frisbee/etc and get a group of neighborhood kids together to play. I doubt there are that many neighborhoods where at least one family can’t afford a used soccer ball.
      You can pick that kind of stuff up at garage sales all the time.

      There are opportunities out there, you need to look for them, not wait to be handed them.

      You can’t expect the government to take care of everything for you. Parents need to encourage their children to be active. Lots of these kids that ‘can’t afford’ to be in sports are sitting at home playing on their Xbox, or mom and dad both have iPhones.

      • Wendy Widebody

        Enjoying a ice cold free coke on your dollar every morning before my soaps come on is part of my daily exercise.

      • Sue

        What is sad, there are more and more worthless POS’s out there with Wendy WideButt’s point of view all the time. Entitlement! take care of me, I’m stupid and lazy!

        Wendy W, may your heart attack be slow, painful, and deadly

  • Eva

    How about you make the healthy foods cheaper to buy so people on the SNAP program can actually get them and make their budget go farther instead of so expensive that they’re pretty much luxuries in and of themselves? And just how healthy are some of those genetically altered foods that the American consumers are pushed to eat? Other countries have banned them as being unsafe and yet those in public office say they’re fine, especially those who have a vested interested in the chemical companies which produce those items. Sorry, folks, but you can’t have it both ways.

    While we’re at it, how about getting government out of our dinner plates? Keep in mind that the more you tell people what they can or cannot consume is going to have an adverse effect because they get sick and tired of being told what to do and become contrary.

    Picture it: you are the head of a low income family struggling to keep the kids fed and a roof over their heads and clothing on their backs and you’re watching the news at night when some sleek, well-groomed politically-minded woman stands in front of a microphone and basically TELLS you what you’re allowed to have. Um, no. YOU have to make the choices for your family, not anyone else and if you don’t have the money to spend on all of these fresh and wholesome foods, then you have to make do with what you CAN get, unlike those who dine off of the taxpayer’s money like those in the White House or any other government office do.

    What about cutting the pay of those in office so we CAN afford to help our own, such as the poor, the ill, the aged and the military? How about we demand those in office pay for their own trips/vacations instead of passing the bills down to us? And how about we STOP blaming the folks who can’t make ends meet for being poor, ill, aged and infirm in the first place? You have to have something in your stomach, even if it isn’t all that greatly nutritional. People moan and groan about those in other countries doing without yet turn a blind eye to the homeless and hungry in our own country. That’s not right. Make sure the ones here at home and the ones fighting for our country are taken care of FIRST; worry about the others later.

    If you want to gripe about paying for other people to live and taking care of their health, start to complain about those who make a life-time career out of being in government first, because they retire quite well off with benefits above and beyond what those who actually break their backs and sweat for a living get.

    • John

      Eva, I certainly hope that if you cannot afford to buy enough food to feed your family, you aren’t wasting your money on pop!

    • Kenny

      Alright, enough with the stupid comments. Do not come on here and say you cannot afford healthy food with the amount of food stamps you get. The “I can’t afford a pound of apples and a head of lettuce with my food stamps, so I will buy a 12-pack of Coke instead” logic doesn’t work. It is estimated that $2 Billion a year in food stamp benefits are used to buy sugary drinks? That money can be spent on more nutritious food. I don’t think food stamps should be used for soda. Simple as that!

      Also, even if they change the rules and do not allow soda to be purchased, who is banning anyone from drinking it? Any fatty who has the money to buy it on their own can drink up. Have fun watching your toes fall off if you can still see your feet under your fat gut.

      • Jules

        I will come here and say that … I cannot afford healthy food with the amount of food stamps you get!!! Who the hell are you to tell me what I can and cannot afford?

        I get less than $200 a month for a family of 2. Food prices are going up and Food stamps are going down and my daughter needs Gluten Free foods!! My SSI (disability) pays my rent with just a little bit over for household items. It costs too damn much to pay for healthy food .. so it’s TV dinners. I would love to be able to afford to eat healthy, as I have tried before and I ended up not eating so my daughter could.

        What needs to be done is lower the cost of healthy food, raise the cost of junk foods and raise the funds allotted for Food Stamps so I and America can be able to buy and eat healthy.

      • Kenny

        Jules–Instead of buying that 12-pack of soda, buy the equivalent amount in fruits and vegetables. Similar to my example, a 12-pack of soda is equivalent to a pound or so of apples (depending on if they are in season, where then you might get two or more) and a head or two of lettuce. I think you will find the fruits and vegetables to be more satisfying.

  • Randi

    I agree with this, pop and other things similar should not be allowed with food stamps. I work at a grocery store when not at school and I see daily what a typical person using a food stamp card purchases it mainly consists of pop, chips, and a variety of frozen meals; sometimes there is a bunch of bananas or a gallon of milk. I’m not saying all people use there card in this way, but a large portion does. I do not feel that it would be difficult to regulate, pop already has tax on it and the card does not accept taxable items, but with pop it takes off the tax. Food stamp programs could be more regulated, in a way similar to the WIC program which sends out checks that only allows the person those products. These products include fresh fruits and vegetables, non sugar cereals, and milk as well as other healthy items.

    • John

      Great Post, Randi! thanks for the insite from someone who sees it.
      My sister used WIC for awhile. It is a great program there for those who need it. I liked the fact that she could only get nutritious items for her kids. So did she. Because the items were specified on the ‘coupons’ she didn’t have to worry that she didn’t have enough money to cover 2 gallons of milk, her coupon specifically covered that.

    • becky

      I know you work in a grocery store and see more then most but how do you know that they havent gone some place cheaper for there other food, i recieve food stamps and work a full time job am a mother of two and i shop at 3 to 4 differnet stores to save and be able to stretch what i recieve and yes if i have some left i will buy pop for myself, if i buy chips its to go with lunch or dinner like taco salad or sandwichs and chips. no i do not think things should be ban from porgrams because of a stupid study did the study look at people who arent on food stamps adn what they buy. No everybody always looks at what people on this and that buy and that buy. What about the other million people in this world that may be fat not every poor person is fat and if you have not been on them for a day in yourlife then you have nothing to say about what people do and how they spend them. If they dont want fat people in this world then they need to ban ahole lot more then pop on food stamps they need to ban coffee and kol aid and sugar period for everybody not just certain people.

      • Sue

        Kudos to you for working and supporting your kids.
        At the same time, though, if you need the government (which translates into other taxpayers since the gov has no money of it’s own) to give you money to be able to feed your kids, they should be able to say that you have to buy healthy items for your kids. They should also be able to say no alcohol or smokes with that money. If you want to spend the money you earn on that, that is your choice. Don’t spend the money I earn on that kind of stuff.

        there are too many irresponsible parents out there who are taking the hand out (not a hand up) and buying crap for their families because it is easier. It’s pretty easy to give little Johnny a ding dong and a can of coke. All I had to do was hand it to him and he didn’t argue, he likes it. I would have to actually do some work to cut up an apple and pour a glass of cold water for him. And, he might argue and tell me he’d rather have a coke and ding dong! Gosh, I would have to be a parent then!

        And yes, I have been very poor so I feel I have a right to have an opinion on this.

      • Sue

        If you work, spend YOUR money on your coke and smokes if it is there. The money the gov is giving you (that they took out of MY pocket) should be spent to feed your kids healthy food.

        too many parents feed their kids crap because it is easier. they need to step up and parent.

  • John

    Stop the entire program. The problem is that people think it is the duty of the state and fed government to provide these programs. IT IS NOT. It use to be family helped family in times of trouble but everyone was expected to eventually pull themselves together and provide for themselfs. The problem today is that a certain portion of our society trive to get on these programs. Read the Fall of Rome. The roman empire did not fall because of external armies defeating them it fell because of internal dependancy and greed.

    • John (the other John, I guess)

      I don’t know that doing away with the programs is the right answer. Overhauling them maybe. A lot of people use them as stop gap measure after a divorce, or other personal tragedy. Not everyone HAS family that can help them. They are intended to help you get back on your feet.

      I agree, something needs to be done about the ‘lifers’. There are entire generations of ‘families’ (I use the term loosely because I don’t think you are really a family when you are just breeding to get more money) that have been raised off of the money that you and I work our $*($&* off to make. They don’t know any better, they don’t want any better. Those people need to be stopped. Make them work, make them get birth control (the shot so you know they are getting it), make them get off their butts and contribute.

      But, don’t stop helping the good people who are in a bad situation.

    • Suzy B

      Alcohol of any kind cannot be bought with SNAP, nor can tobacco of any kind. They also do not cover paper products including diapers & wipes. Just food & drinks, healthy choices are made by healthy people. Fat or diabetic has nothing to do with it. It’s about your mind set.

  • Wendy

    None of these programs should last for life.

    They should all be temporary assistance for those hitting a bump in the road. Women should NOT get more money by being baby machines and cranking out more children.

    As someone in the know, I find it interesting how all these takers from society can afford 1-2 packs of cigs/day, tattoos, and the latest cellphones.

    But, they cannot afford a bare bone healthcare policy.

  • Jules

    What needs to be done is lower the prices of healthy food and raise the prices of junk food. I am on Food Stamps because of my disability. It is hard to feed a family of 2 (myself and my daughter) on less than $200 a month, when most of my SSI goes to my rent, leaving me just enough to get household essentials.

    I would love to eat, but it costs too damn much and most of the time I can only afford tv dinners, that are not healthy. I drink Sprite .. no caffeine and clear liquid, as for health reasons I can not drink anything with caffeine or dark corn syrup. Yes, I alternate with water as well .. but I do not care for water.

    Food prices are also rising, which makes it more difficult to eat healthy and when food prices go up, Food Stamps goes down, which is completely stupid. Food Stamps should go up to compensate for the higher food costs.

  • linda

    I am so tired reading about this crap! People who promote this idea have never had to use food stamps. I work but still rely on food stamps to get me through the month. Maybe they should work more on raising minimum wage and getting businesses into the state.With better paying jobs people could get off of gov’t asst. I have a child with special needs and can only eat certain things. expensive things. You know you used to be able to rely on hamburger and eggs to get you through but the price of those have skyrocketed. You bitch, moan and complain that some people buy there kids a little pop or candy with stamps well you know they aren’t making enough to give them the pleasures other children enjoy so lets let them do what they can. I know there are famlies out there who use there stamps for steaks and junk food but that is not the “norm” and I am getting sick and tired of being grouped with these people!

  • Penny

    I feel that Food Stamps should be regulated and I was one of the individuals who needed help over a life hurdle.

    I think only whole foods such as milk, eggs, meat and produce; toiletries like toothpaste, toilet tissue, shampoo and soap also should be able to be purchased with the SNAP card.

    Sweets, and junk food should be banned completely from any type of assistance program.

    • Tom

      Sorry Penny I disagree. Who are you to tell someone they can’t have a candy bar? When you needed the food assistance program, you never bought chips, pop, ice cream, sugar coated cereal, chocolate milk? Well golf clap for you. But I don’t believe you. Nobody goes into a grocery store without picking up something to eat or drink that they can’t do without. Besides most people go grocery shopping when they are hungry. Ends that plan of yours, to only buy health.

  • Tom

    Pop sure isn’t going to curb obesity, what Washington brain dead ahole came up with that. Michelle with a butt 2 ax handles wide. Come on people think alittle bit. You don’t order two dbl 1/4 lb . cheese burgers, fries, large coke, super sized. Pop doesn’t make people fat. People make themselves fat. Don’t tell me they can’t stop stuffing their faces with junk food. If you sit on your butt all day, eating and drinking junk food, you are going to balloon up nicely. Do physical exercise, or labor. Eat a good breakfast, light lunch, and a nice dinner. Don’t be afraid to throw a roast in the crock pot with, carrots, onions, and potatoes, for your evening meal. Fast food is your enemy. Don’t tell me you can’t stop, that’s an excuse. Be upfront admit you want to be obese. Stop listening to these so called experts telling the entire population they can’t have a liter of pop at the 7-11. You just don’t need 2 or 3 a day. Moderation okay? Hope you have a great day.
    (this is food for thought)

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