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No-food-stamps-for-soda policy would only widen the social gap

When I was growing up, a visit to the home of an uncle and his wife was eagerly anticipated because they kept bottles of cola in their refrigerator. With six little mouths to feed, my parents thought they couldn't afford that luxury (though they did buy themselves cigarettes).

Now the mayor of New York wants to institutionalize the soda gap by prohibiting his city's 1.7 million food stamp recipients from using the stamps to buy soda or other sugared drinks. It's another offensive in the war on obesity.

"At the least," wrote New York City's and New York state's health commissioners, a no-food-stamps-for-soda policy "would ensure that food stamps wouldn't subsidize, in the name of nutrition, a product that causes obesity and a lifetime of health problems." The two New Yorks are asking the U.S. Agriculture Department to authorize a pilot project in New York City to prevent recipients from enjoying the pause that refreshes on the taxpayer's dime (or dollar).

Put aside the fact that, in moderation, the consumption of soft drinks doesn't lead to obesity. Forget (though I haven't)  an unintended consequence of the larger anti-obesity crusade, the demonization of fat people and fat kids in particular. The policy being pushed by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg creates a cola class system, in which the well-off are free to buy a popular food product and the poor have to forgo it.

The two-tier approach doesn't bother me when welfare recipients are prevented from using government largess to gamble or go on cruises. But denying a kid the occasional coke because his parents are poor is patronizing and mean-spirited.

-- Michael McGough


Comments () | Archives (19)

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This is why the welfare state is a bad idea. When churches and other NGOs feed the poor they can demand accountability the government cannot--and also provide the occasional treat for the kiddos. Welfare, because it must treat everyone equally, drags all its clients down to idiot level.


Since when was a drink consisting of sugar and artificial flavorings and colorings a "food product"?

I don't see why soda should be in the food category any more than a pack of cigarettes - it's not food - it's a junk product of no nutritional value that contributes to serious diseases and obesity in children. Ask any adult or child who has gone through grade school seriously overweight and see if they thought it was worth the junk food they had growing up.

I could well afford soda for my children when they were small - but I did not buy it and never have - they did not miss it - and do not drink it now as young adults. They are thankful they are not obese or addicted to junk food.


What a smoke screen! SODA IS NOT THE PROBLEM.

The drug makers and diabetes drug makers take in 10 billion$$$$ every year with no cure!!

Food Chemicals are the cause of the diabetes and obesity crisis NOT SODA!

The FDA and Drug makers know this and are laughing to the Billionaire$$$ bank!

The food chemicals break the gut(insulin) and this is the cause of the diabetes and obesity crisis

A filmmaker has been reversing diabetes and Obesity in now 10 countries and the drug makers do not promote the story


Jim From Texas

I'm a liberal, but I had to comment on this article. This is beyond frivilous! When accepting charity it's bad form to complain that you didn't get your soda!

Welfare is for sustanance!

Pasquino Marforio

LOL. The social gap? The social gap is doing just fine, thank you...


Thousands in welfare cash tapped at California strip clubs

June 30, 2010 | 2:13 pm

California welfare recipients have been able to get taxpayer cash -- meant to feed and clothe needy families -- from ATM machines at strip clubs across the state, including some well-known gentlemen’s cabarets in Los Angeles.

Pasquino Marforio

But not to be outdone...


L.A. County welfare to children of illegal immigrants grows

Payments to U.S.-born children rose to $52 million in July, prompting calls for policy changes.

Welfare payments to children of illegal immigrants in Los Angeles County increased in July to $52 million, prompting renewed calls from one county supervisor to rein in public benefits to such families.

The payments, made to illegal immigrants for their U.S. citizen children, included $30 million in food stamps and $22 million from the CalWorks welfare program, according to county figures released Friday by Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich.

The new figure represents an increase of $3.7 million from July 2009 and makes up 23% of all county welfare and food stamp assistance, according to county records.

Last year, welfare and food stamp issuances totaled nearly $570 million, and the amount is projected to exceed $600 million this year. In addition, county taxpayers spend $550 million in public safety — mostly for jail costs — and nearly $500 million for healthcare for illegal immigrants, Antonovich said.

This is just ONE county in California.


This is terrible. If they ban soda pop and other junk food, where are we going to get our future sports heroes? Many of them were raised on welfare, and only grew to 7 feet tall and 320 pounds. Come on, think about the future of sports in America, will you?


Sorry Michael but you are wrong on this one. Food stamps should be a stigma, an embarrassment to use. Living off the hard work of others should be an absolute last resort. I say ban all premade food of any kind and only allow the cheapest possible food to be purchased with food stamps.


This is beyond stupid. Nobody said that parents could not buy their kids a soda pop. New York is just saying that it will not buy their kids soda pop.

A "cola class system"? This is beyond, beyond stupid. Why do you still have a job?

Bob Johnson

Why are 1.7 million people in New York on food stamps. Isn't there a limit on the number of leeches in a city?


Why is there an assumption that people using food stamps either don't work or never have worked and paid taxes? Many of the working poor in low-wage jobs rely upon food stamps to help make ends meet. And some current food stamps recipients worked for many decades before their jobs vanished into the black hole of the recession. This is class war waged by lying hypocites. I'm sick of my taxes being used to subsidize big banks & bombing Afghanistan--who can I petition to stop that?
So now the poor can go back to buying big bags of sugar & Kool-Aid instead of soda--I'm sure the obesity rates will drop immediately ( sarcasm intended). Maybe we'll only allow them to buy prune juice--that should cure the problem.


Hmmm...well, why not just dispense with the food stamps altogether? Just hand out the food and water that the nanny state determines to be best for the consumer. That way they can't fill up on twinkies either...or white bread when they should go for whole grains...or hamburger when ground turkey is leaner. In fact, let's just force the poor people to eat nothing but tofu. And this way we can control the portions, too. Just like Jennie Craig. We've got to keep those calories down.

And what point do we get nauseated trying to control everything?

By the way people, if you think this will stop at food stamps, you're dreaming. Expect a government controlled diet to become part of obamacare. The government knows what's best for you.


Michael, the idea that this “creates a cola class system, in which the well-off are free to buy a popular food product and the poor have to forgo it.” is a little ridiculous. Society should strive to have a level playing field in things that are necessary (police protection, health care, access to food) but luxuries are to be purchased by those who have the money to purchase luxuries. That's how money works.

lose weight

good, if these people are hurting for money that much to get food stamps they can make some healthy changes in their life. They shouldn't be buying soda for themselves and their kids if they don't have a job, go buy some fruits and vegetables. maybe they'll want their soda so bad they'll go find a job to buy it with. soda is just empty calories they don't need, and to lose weight check out www.diet-myths.com

Bee Gomez

Working poor? When do they work? In between vacations and cruises and trips?


Regarding the New York campaign that would ban New York food-stamp recipients from using their food stamps to buy sugary drinks: Do any of them realize that, in most cases, those sugary drinks that they want to ban from being able to be purchased by food-stamps ARE USUALLY THE CHEAPEST DRINKS IN THE STORE? And that, again, in most cases, THE HEALTHER DRINKS ARE USUALLY THE MORE EXPENSIVE DRINKS IN THE STORE? Yet I have not read where anyone in a New York leadership position is advocating that more food-stamps be given to food-stamp recipients so that they can better afford those healthier drinks the state of New York wants food-stamp recipients to buy. So, this new campaign will actually just create a larger economic burden for people who are struggling, financially. The problem is actually much bigger than food-stamps. In our society today, a MacDonald's hamburger is CHEAPER than a peach at the grocery store. That is because, overall, junk food is MUCH CHEAPER than healthy food. If we can get that equation turned around, then we will actually be fixing the problem.

Tom Friese

Are you serious?!

Soda provides no nutritional value whatsoever! The purpose of the food stamps is to ensure that those who cannot afford to buy food will stay nourished. If food stamps are spent on soda instead of real food, the health of the poor is sacrificed.

I'm not prepared to put nutrition aside for the sake of avoiding a soda social class conflict. Wealthy people can afford more luxuries than poor people. Whether this extensive list of "class inequality" includes access to soda, it just seems like it doesn't make a difference.

Maybe, a child who isn't exposed to sugary soft drinks and gets more nutrition instead will be able to learn better at school. Maybe they won't have dental problems early in life because of the acid and sugar their teeth are exposed to constantly.


Weight Loss aside, Food stamps were meant to provide food so people who are struggling do not have to go hungry! Soda does not feed you. It does provide you with nothing but sugar,sodium,and caffeine. Ask the many teachers who notice all the headaches children seem to have the first few months of school, when they have been living the whole summer sucking up the soda. Caffeine headaches from grade school students. The parents are addicted, so they start their kids off on soda for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. As far as the gov. trying to tell people what to buy, they just said not with stamps. I am sure over half the people smoke and they seem to be able to buy cigarettes. At one time, stamps were not available at all! I am so tired of KNOWING several young people who abuse the system and not even looking for work, but gotta have that soda! Soda cheaper than milk? Water?( not where I come from) Buy a filter!


Welfare is not meant to supply uncles with the "luxury" of cola. It is meant to provide impoverished individuals with one of the basic necessities of life, namely, food. Soda is not a food, it is an industry's ability to take advantage of our evolutionary desire for overly sweet flavor that has led to the current obesity epidemic. That is a fact.



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