Last October, New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg requested that the U.S. Department of Agriculture prevent New York residents from using food stamps to purchase soda and other sugary drinks. On Friday, the USDA rejected the proposal, partly citing the difficulty of sorting out which beverages would and wouldn’t be allowed under the policy.
Dr. Thomas A. Farley, New York City’s health commissioner, said he was “very upset” by the proposal’s rejection, adding that it “really calls into question how serious the USDA is about addressing the nation’s most serious nutritional problem,” reports the New York Times.
The choice was obviously a victory for the soda industry, which lobbied against the proposal. Some advocates for the poor were also against the bill, arguing that forcing food-stamp users to shop differently is a stigmatizing experience. “The whole attempt was misguided and unworkable,” Mr. Berg said. “This proposal was based on the false assumption that poor people were somehow ignorant or culturally deficient.”
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a release that the proposal was too complex and also questioned its effectiveness. He added, “We are confident that we can solve the problem of obesity and promote good nutrition and health for all Americans and stand ready to work with New York City to achieve these goals.”
The proposal was a part of New York City’s campaign to fight obesity, which is associated with much higher medical costs. Bloomberg argued that the pilot program would have cut down on obesity-related diseases at little cost to taxpayers. “We’re disappointed that the federal government didn’t agree, and sorry that families and children may suffer from their unwillingness to explore our proposal,” Bloomberg said in a statement. “New York City will continue to pursue new and unconventional ways to combat the health problems that hurt New Yorkers and Americans from coast to coast.”