Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Banning Soda for Food Stamps Raises Tough Questions

As you all can imagine, I am all for NYC's Mayor Bloomberg's proposal for banning people from using food stamps to buy soda. Hell, I think soda should be taxed the same way alcohol and cigarettes are taxed.

Still I try to keep an open mind and this article presents both sides of the issue: http://civileats.com/2010/10/08/banning-soda-for-food-stamps-raises-tough-questions/

I have to say the "dignity" argument really doesn't persuade me at all. We don't allow food stamp recipients to use their food stamps to buy beer or alcohol, so why should we allow them to buy soda which is probably just as damaging to their health? Particularly since their health care costs are usually publicly subsidized as well.

I found Mr. Fisher's arguments that the food stamps program really amounts to nothing more then subsidies for the food industry persuasive.

I'd argue that if we really want people on food stamps to eat better, and support smaller farmers, then they should be given double points for buying their food at farmer's markets. We constantly hear that poor people can't afford to eat nutritional sound fresh fruits and vegetables because they're more expensive. So here's what you do--make fruits and vegetables cheaper for them by saying a $1 in food stamps is worth $2 if you buy fruits and vegetables at a farmer's market.

You support small businesses--not agribusiness--and help poor people eat better.

I'd call that a win, win.


  1. Very interesting article. I like your suggestion that people be given double points for buying fresh fruits and vegetables, but I don't believe it should just be at farmers' markets. Many disadvantaged communities don't have easy access to farmers' markets -- why not let them receive double points at supermarkets or small neighborhood stores also?

  2. My point was to encourage small business farmers as well, but I guess Bodega owners would count as small business people as well.

  3. I would go further than soda. I would say you can't buy anything that is junk food (and I suppose a list would have to be made) with food stamps. Only nourishing foods with minimal processing (fruits, veggies, milk, meats, whole grains, beans, unsweetened cereals.) No sugared fruit punches/juice beverages. No cakes, cookies. No cereals where sugar is in the top 5 ingredients.

    The government is the parent in this type of situation. It's the food provider. So, it should provide only access to what nourishes, not what is crap. And I like the idea of a vegetable bonus. :D

  4. The problem is also about education...educating our poorer population about the dangers of fast food and processed foods in general. Otherwise there will be a riot if they won't be able to use food stamps for the easy, cheap foods they have known for most of their lives. It takes a lot to change the mentality around cereals, cakes, cookies and hot dogs.

  5. Really love your blog. I think the double points for F&V is a great idea!

    Looking forward to reading more on your blog!

    A new fan...