Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Paterson have a half-baked plan for New York City’s food stamp recipients. They want to ban food stamp recipients from buying sugary drinks, reports Yahoo! News.
Bloomberg and Paterson’s intentions are good. They want to battle obesity and diabetes. However, their plan is half-baked in several ways.
First, “officials said the proposal targets sugary drinks because they are the largest contributor to obesity,” reports Yahoo! They are the “largest contributor.” What is the source of this information? How was it determined? The market is saturated with fattening sweets. Were all varieties of sweets consumed by an obese person considered against his or her sugary drink intake? If an obese person drinks two glasses of soda per day, do we know how many snacks he or she eats to determine that sugary drinks are the “largest contributor”?
Secondly, “more than half of adult New York City residents are overweight or obese, along with nearly 40 percent of public school students in kindergarten through eighth grade,” reports Yahoo! Bloomberg and Paterson’s concern for children is commendable. However, what percentage of the obese adults and children are food stamp recipients? Non-food-stamp recipients can afford to buy more goodies than recipients. High-income individuals can afford to dine out more than low-income people.
Thirdly, Yahoo! reports, “City officials said lower-income residents are most likely to drink one or more sugar-sweetened drinks a day; adult-onset diabetes is also twice as common among poor New Yorkers compared to the wealthiest.” This connection is scientifically uncorroborated. Factors such as genetics, illnesses or a plethora of options could account for diabetes in the poor. No one knows the cause of diabetes.
In addition to the factual foundation of this ban being half-baked, three social factors plague it.
First, low-income food stamp recipients are being ostracized in society. They cannot possibly constitute the majority of obese New Yorkers because, according to Yahoo’s report, they are less than one-fourth of the city’s population. They are “1.7 million of the city’s more than 8 million residents.” Why are food stamp recipients being punished for non-recipients’ obesity?
Secondly, for politicians to control people’s personal habits reeks of dictatorship and infringes upon individual freedom. Banner Bloomberg has already gone after smoking, salt usage and bottled water. Soon, children may never know the joy of running to an ice cream truck.
Thirdly, “in New York, a proposal to adopt a penny-per-ounce tax on sweetened soda failed to get out of the state legislature earlier this year; Bloomberg backed the state proposal,” Yahoo! reports. There was no concern for food stamp recipients’ health then. If the tax had passed, would the ban be proposed today?
The sugary drink ban may increase the sale of diet drinks. Who will benefit from that?
If the ban passes, New York food stamp recipients will need an increase in benefits to buy juices with no-sugar added, for they are more expensive than sugary drinks.
This ban is half-baked. Put it back in the oven.
Sara Kugler Frazier, “NY seeks to ban sugary drinks from food stamp buys,” Yahoo! News.