UPDATE [8/24/2011]: The USDA has rejected the proposal to ban soda purchases made with food stamps.
New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has asked federal officials to ban the use of food stamps to purchase soda and other sugary beverages. The agency in question is the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which regulates food stamps. The request would affect the 1.7 million recipients of food stamps in New York City. The state of New York has also signed onto the request.
The request is part of the mayor’s anti-obesity push. The initiative has placed stricter rules on school cafeteria lunches and launched a public education ad campaign. Bloomberg and Dr. Thomas Frieden, the current director of the CDC, unsuccessfully lobbied to place a tax on soda.
It is unclear what the Department of Agriculture will decide to do. George Hacker, senior adviser for the Center for Science in the Public Interest recommends a public education campaign instead. “The world would be better, I think, if people limited their purchases of sugared beverages,” said Mr. Hacker. “However, there are a great many ethical reasons to consider why one would not want to stigmatize people on food stamps.”
In 2004, the Department of Agriculture refused to grant a similar request to the state of Minnesota. Minnesota asked to ban the use of food-stamps to purchase junk foods like soda and candy.