Banning Use of Food Stamps for Soda Is Just Wrong

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

Read More >