Banning Use of Food Stamps for Soda Is Just Wrong

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SodaAs more Americans, kids especially, are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, it's important to have a national conversation about what people should be eating. We need to talk about how we make, sell, and buy our food. But some suggestions are out of line, like that of The New York Times columnist Mark Bittman, who's calling for a ban on soda purchases with food stamps. Because, really, who am I to tell people what they can and can't spend their money on.

It's an argument with merit: sugary drinks cause obesity, which creates health problems, and therefore we should try to help people make healthier choices. But if you tell someone he or she can't have a soda, what's next?

Will you then tell people they can't have cookies? Will potato chips be banned? How about ketchup? French fries? Deli turkey? Eggs? Whole milk?

It seems like you could make any sort of argument for or against the healthfulness of lots of foods. But who am I to decide how other people decide to live their lives and feed their families? Should I have more rights as someone who can afford to pay for my own food without needing food stamps? What kind of society would we be creating if we decided that the rich got to dictate to the poor what they could and could not eat?

Bittman argues that since food stamps can't be used to buy alcohol or tobacco, we should be able to ban high-calorie, low-nutrition foods like soda. But cigarettes ain't food. And while there is a correlation between food-insecurity and obesity, meaning yes, nutrition is lacking, people need to be educated. And food stamps need to be worth more. Newark Mayor Cory Booker had less than $30 to live on for the week he volunteered to live on food stamps.

We need to make healthy food more affordable. We need to make food stamps more valuable. And we need to educate people to empower them to make their own healthy food choices. Telling others what they can and can't eat is condescending.

Do you think people should be able to buy soda with food stamps or should the government limit what people can purchase?


Image via jpockele/Flickr

drinks, healthy choices, obesity


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nonmember avatar Gretta

Uhm... Food stamps are the definition of not "their money".

bills... billsfan1104

ummmm, they are not using their own money, they areusing FOOD STAMPS. That is paid for by MY tax dollars.  In fact, I think that we should have rules on what they can spend on food stamps an deman that they use coupons too. 

butte... butterflyfreak

I don't really think banning soda purchases with food stamps is a bad idea. But it will not, in and of itself, fix the obesity problem in our country. Teaching people how to make foods from scratch with whole, healthy foods would be a good start. Making healthy foods more affordable and the pre-packaged "convenience" foods more expensive would help a lot, too. My family have started making our meals from scratch and have GREATLY reduced the amount of processed foods in our kitchen pantry. Just by doing this (and cutting down on the carbs) my husband has lost more than 40 lbs and I have lost about 30, in the last 6-9 months.

missusmc missusmc

All junk food should be banned from use with food stamps, including soda and all processed foods.  If you need assistance for essentials, I have no problem with that, but our family budgets and cant have treats often, so it shouldn't be a big deal.  Besides, those receiving government benefits often also receive government healthcare, right?  This would help lower those costs, because preventable diseases are expensive.  It just makes sense.

Pinkmani Pinkmani

Missusmc, banning processed foods for those on food stamps is a horrible idea. Why? Because those who are on food stamps are working throughout the day and don't have time to spend hours cooking. 

bills... billsfan1104

BUtterfly, I am starting that, and have gone organic with my meats.  I feel sooo much better

nonmember avatar Alexa

Banning soda, yes! Banning all processed foods, no!

jalaz77 jalaz77

Right Gretta-it's acutally my money!!! I understand the need for food stamps but no longer than 6months-1year. This gets old.

nonmember avatar Kelly

Many welfare recipients work (low-paying) jobs. Those people also pay taxes. Explain why you get to decide what they eat with their own tax dollars. Power trip much people? Sheesh, I'm so glad that nobody other than food stamp recipients are fat or drink soda. No matter if Medicaid or Blue Cross pay for obesity related conditions, don't fool yourself into thinking tax dollars don't pay for both!

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