New Yorkers on food stamps would not be allowed to spend them on sugar-sweetened drinks under an obesity-fighting proposal being floated by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. David Paterson. …If approved, it would be the first time an item would be banned from the federal program based solely on nutritional value. The idea has been suggested previously, including in 2008 in Maine, where it drew criticism from advocates for the poor who argued it unfairly singled out low-income people and risked scaring off potential needy recipients. And in 2004 the USDA rejected Minnesota’s plan to ban junk food, including soda and candy, from food stamp purchases, saying it would violate the Food Stamp Act’s definition of what is food and could create “confusion and embarrassment” at the register. The food stamp system…does not currently restrict any other foods based on nutrition. Recipients can essentially buy any food for the household, although there are some limits on hot or prepared foods. Food stamps also cannot be used to buy alcohol, cigarettes or items such as pet food, vitamins or household goods. …There still are many unhealthful products New Yorkers could purchase with food stamps, including potato chips, ice cream and candy.
Should Food Stamps Be Restricted to “Healthy Foods”?
October 7, 2010 by Dan Mitchell
As indicated by my post on how to handle prisoners with AIDS, I periodically run into issues where I’m not sure about the right answer. Here’s another case. Politicians in New York have a proposal to prohibit people from using food stamps to buy sugary drinks. Part of me is irritated by paternalistic, nanny-state busybodies who want to tell other people how to live. On the other hand, maybe this proposal will make people less willing to mooch off taxpayers by accepting food stamps (though I suspect they’ll just bring two carts to the checkout line, one with things that can be purchased with food stamps, and the other filled with sodas, booze, and other items that would require cash). The ideal answer, of course, is to get rid of the federal food stamp program and let states and communities experiment with the best way of handling these issues. Here’s an excerpt from the AP report.