Food stamp soda ban could help save 141,000 children from obesity

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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.


  • Hungry Hippo

    About time! No welfare kid should be guzzling soda day and night! Just makes for more free dr trips for them and the tax payers having to front the bill! These welfare parents should also be required to get their tubes tied after 3 kids as well so they can no longer have kids grow up in the welfare system and allow the parent to sit back and live a better lifestyle than us hard working citizens! Trash is all

  • h

    Why would soda be an allowed purchase anyway? That is just stupid! I am not on food stamps and we cant afford to buy it except for once in a while as a treat…I guess that’s what we get for both working full-time jobs….

  • Queen Bee

    Food stamps should cover nutritious food – no dessert or soda. Those are luxuries, not necessities.

  • sick of you

    This is stupid if you work and can’t afford what you want then your working for nothing also soda is cheaper than juice so it sounds like they are getting what they can afford

  • Joseph

    There are too many “bans” in America. Wake up people, it may be some you enjoy that gets banned next!

  • James Cranford

    ok, let me get this straight. you reward people for not working and then you get surprised that they get sick from inactivity. we know children are not much more active than their parents. oh, yeah, somewhat overall, but if you have parents that stay at home all the time and watch tv, children are going to follow suit most of the time. the democrat party, and republicans that go along, have promised to take care of these people, claiming the system is against them and they cannot succeed. they are right. its the welfare system that enables them to stay home and not get engaged and thus have a chance at being successful. welfare is suppose to be a ‘safety net’ not a lifestyle

    • Mr. Perfect

      Umm James what rock have you been under? Republicans have tried to ammend “welfare” but the liberals put up road blocks and make excuses every time. Don’t blame conservatives!

  • Eric G

    To those who believe everyone on Food stamps are non-working trash I have this to say. STFU none of you understand what truly goes on out in THE REAL WORLD. I am a working parent getting food stamps. I work full time making 11$ an hour. I don’t get much but what I do get helps feed my kids. Paying normal bills like rent, power, water, and gas to commute to work takes almost every dime of what I make. Without the food stamps my kids don’t eat. I agree with what sick of you said its cheaper than healthier items. Having to work off a extremely tight budget. I get the things I can afford the easiest. I stretch every dollar I get to make it all last the longest. Sad truth to everything is the healthy options for food and drink always cost 2-3 times more than the least healthy options. They want to reform spending and healthy living at the same time they need to “study” how to reverse that trend.

      • Brittany

        Internet costs 20 bucks Mr conservative “perfect” a-hole. Sometimes people need a relaxing moment when they get home. Did you ever stop to think that his wife may work from home or the fact that internet may be the only way to communicate with family members? I guess you didn’t. You’re not perfect so stop acting like it. That’s one less bill, yes…but he may not have cable or television. Maybe he chose the cheaper of the two so the kids can have some type of entertainment in the home. I’m guessing you’re making what?? 30 bucks an hour? Quit hating on people who are trying and atleast not completely on welfare and atleast trying to make a living

      • Eric G

        Well now Mr. Perfect I could cancel internet. I’ll concede that point but only if you can definitively prove how you can feed a family off of $30 a month. If you can’t then you argument is entirely invalid!

      • sick of you

        Maybe the internet is with his cellphone service. .. some of you people are just ignorant to believe that all welfare recipients lay around at home and don’t work most of them ring up your groceries or take your orders and then you leave a lousy tip get over yourself

  • sick of you

    Also you complain about the taxes but guess what you will still have to pay them even without the lazy welfare people cause most of your taxes pay these sorry politicians you love cause they NOT on welfare

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