Feds Shoot Down NYC Plan To Ban Food Stamp Use For Sugary Drinks

Mayor Bloomberg Expresses Dismay Over USDA's Failure To Grant Waiver

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A plan by New York City to combat obesity by restricting the purchase of sugary drinks with foods stamps would be too large and complex, federal officials said Friday.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture rejected a waiver request that would have allowed the city to implement the plan, which would have barred food stamp recipients from using their benefits to buy sodas, teas, sports drinks and other sugar-sweetened drinks.

The ban would have applied to any sweetened beverage that contains more than 10 calories per 8 ounces.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. David Paterson announced in October that they would seek a waiver from the USDA to start up a temporary program that would be evaluated before becoming permanent.

In a statement released Friday, Bloomberg said his administration was disappointed by the USDA’s decision.

“We think our innovative pilot would have done more to protect people from the crippling effects of preventable illnesses like diabetes and obesity than anything being proposed anywhere else in this country — and at little or no cost to taxpayers,” he said.

While sharing the goal of reducing obesity, an official with the nation’s food stamp program said in a letter Friday addressed to the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance that the USDA had concerns about the plan’s “potential viability and effectiveness.”

Jessica Shahin, associate administrator of the program, wrote that the proposal lacked clear product eligibility guidelines, didn’t take into account the burden that might be placed on city food retailers and failed to put forward a credible design for evaluating the effect on obesity and health.

The food stamp program was launched in the 1960s and serves more than 40 million Americans each month.

The city has been actively working to shape diet choices by New Yorkers, including with a public advertising campaign called “Pouring on the Pounds” that targets the excessive consumption of sugary drinks by linking it to obesity and diabetes.

(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

  • John L

    Food stamps should be limited to only certain foods like whole grains, fruit, vegetables, lean proteins, low fat dairy, etc. Soft drinks are not part of a healthy diet. Plain water is the best beverage to consume. The WIC Program limits foods that can be bought. Remember, this is taxpayer money being used.

  • Buck Wheat

    Someone make my momma stop spending our footstamps on cola.

  • Millie Gonzalez

    I personally do not have a problem with gov’t regulating the items that can be purchased with food stamps. Why? Because this is the government’s money that is being dispersed to needy Americans. Now, if you are having trouble feeding your family then you should at least be trying to feed them well and soda does not feed anyone well.

    (Of course, it is really tax payer’s money, but the government decides who gets it not us)

    • G

      Millie Gonzales. I agree with you,

  • stormin' Norman

    The government should worry how food stamps are abused by some who use it to buy alcohol and cigarettes.

  • Marina Ios

    some of the comments are so , so sad….
    when it comes to food stamps ANYONE, I MEAN ABSOLUTELY ANYONE might , at some point in their lives, be in that really horrible and depressing situation when you are not able- physically and/or mentally- to have and keep- in case you find any- a job, after you worked as long as you were able to, meanwhile the only benefits you get- if you are not at retirement age, which is 60smt- is food.
    for those who think that food stamps are a luxury, you are wrong, and pray to God that you will not end up in a jam like this ever in your lives

    • Jeff

      when i see people buying steak and prime rib with food stamps? what am i suppose to think…while i break my ass providing for my family i gotta provide for other people’s family….

      this is BS

  • TomNJ

    The government does not tell anyone what foods to buy. The only thing the government does is tell you what things to buy when they are directly paying for it. Nothing is free and food stamps come with some strings attached. A job and cash will solve the problem, then you can buy whatever you want.

    • Heather Hunkee

      tom so people are poor like senior citizens and disabled people this law made no sense and im so glad it got shot down

      • rose

        This law is not being targeted at the senior citizens or the disabled people. This law is targeted at people who are not buying nutritional food for their children. Go to any NYC Family Court and watch 2 year olds eat cheese doodles and orange soda at 10:00 A.M. I support the Food Stamp program; I do not support the fraud, abuse and mismanagement. You should not be able to buy anything but the necessities. This is what working people do on a budget, why should the people on food stamps be any different. Just remember, it always take a few bad apples to ruin it for the rest of us.

  • Concern

    NO MONEY – Charity Search Engines

  • rose

    This is not racist, nor anything else for that matter. Food stamps are supposed to buy the basic necessities so that people can feed their families. However, this is a true entitlement program. You pay nothing into this system and it is yours if you need it. The government already dictates what you can buy with these stamps, you can’t buy anything you want. Therefore, if they want to modify what items are eligible, they can do it. The government is only involved in recipients lives because the recipients invited them in when they applied for benefits.

  • DAN


    • Will

      Government wouldn’t have any control if they paid for their own food…



    • Will

      I’m proud to know nothing of food stamps…

      • Gerry Graves

        Pride commeth before the fall. You can count yourself lucky. No one recieving foods stamps wants them. While my wife and I were in college we were on food stamps as the best job I could get was paying just 6.00 an hour. Not enough to support us and our two children. We never bought steak, we shopped at save a lot cause it was cheapest. We bought fruit juices for the kids and tea bags and made our own iced tea. We both graduated and never had to use the system again. But let me tell you, every time I used the card they gave you (Missouri uses a sort of debit card) I felt shame. I should not have, as we were bettering ourselves with a Associates Degree, me as a Paralegal, her as a nurse. The shame I felt was from the people around me, it felt like I was being judged. I worked 40 hours a week and 24 hours a week in school. I thank god now that the system was there, as I was able to feed my children.

      • Diane

        @ Gerry Graves….YES YES YES..perhaps someone with an intelligent, heartwarming relatable testamony. 25yrs ago I was a temporary “tenant” of DHS.for those not familiar, its Dept of Homeless Services. I did not want to be there, I had no choice other than to live on the street with a child.Just sold my mothers’ home in Italy…husband in the military and totally unaware my mom owed more to the bank than the house was worth. Back home in NY, I had no other option other than to lean on the government for assistance. Homeless for 6mths..feeding my baby with the help of foodstamps and trekking to the library everyday filling out applications. 17 yrs later my husband and I are homeowners..taxpaying citizens…Living “comfortable”, yet could still use a helping hand in the supermarket. Regardless of your situation never downgrade someone else. In this economy…you’re ONE paycheck away from NOTHING !

    • Bill

      Frank, I don’t know where you are living, but I have seen with my own eyes, in little neighborhood bodegas where people are allowed to use their card for beer and cigarettes… It’s obvious that you don’t see how people- both the store owners and customers are getting away with misusing these cards so they both benefit….WAKE UP!!

  • Cab

    The Doctors and physical license person should do all the women and minority women physical check up to be a based limit pending on their Weight Obesesities for them to qualified for food stamps should be a list of the thing what for them to buy and what not to buy especially buy beer and cigarettes too basically we got a 70% of them are overweight and then when they have kids the kids will be the same way in days to come.

  • Antonio Gumbotz

    Once again it is so great to see the way Our Government actuallly gives a dam about the Health of people.
    Maybe they should focus on all the corruption that comes along within the SNAP PROGRAM and clean it up once and for all !!!

  • DD


    • Will

      I’d be happy if they left the people alone, so much alone that they stopped paying for their food… It enrages me that my taxes go to buy you any food, its even worse when you waste it on garbage sugary drinks… GET A JOB AND BUY YOUR OWN GROCERIES, YOU LAZY JERK!!!

  • Cab

    I am glad that I don’t have Food Stamps in my entire life and a working person most of the times I see people used food stamps to buy Chinese food,McDonald’s and other fast food joints years ago should not be allow. Soda and other Drink products will be a very tough task for people to buy. Maybe the Mayor and Governor want people to buy and drink Water and Low fat Milk and Skim Milk.

  • Ron

    Before trying to enforce this ridiculous law, they should crack down on the grocery store owners who allow food stamp benefits to be used to purchase non-food items!

  • Christian M

    Well Libs who feel sympathy for food stamp recepients often point out that they suffer from obesity. That’s right people that are too “poor” to afford food suffer fromt he consumption of too many calories. Poor Dears. We had to prohibit them from buy beer and tobacco with food stamps a decade ago because that’s the poor choices these poor people make instead of feeding their multiple children. The average welfare mama is obsese (over 50%) but the average welfare child suffers malnutrution and is dependent on “free” school lunches and dinners. The parasites’ demands will one day soon outpace the producers ability to provide a free ride in our society.

    • factchecker

      Calling folks on food stamps naming calling damages credibility, 1 out 7 folks are on it, if I called folks in the south who tend to be republican and evagelical fat and label
      what would you day? You cannot compare soda with beer and tobacco, soda is little different than a bagel with cream cheese, in moderation its okay, is white bread ok, or vitamin water, or gatorade, what about working folks, who is to say the clerk or the construction worker is using food stamps.

      • Will

        Actually, soda is very different than a bagel and cream cheese, a soda being sugar and water and a bagel having all three necessary macronutrients, as for Vitamin Water and Gatorade, these are not healthy, they are sugar and water, water hydrates better and is much, much cheaper!

    • johnny malcontent

      I was in Inwood Super Market, the lady in front of me used the Food Stamp Access card to pay her bill. Yes her grown kids were fat and obese. They choose that “life style of increasing their back side Among their purchases were bottles of Soda. That increase their chances of Diabetes and prolong their state of Obesity.

  • Mom of two

    In this economy and with the complete and utter lack of stability in the job market how dare anyone think this should really be the determining factor? Food Stamps are a survival tactic utilized by a large population of people. Please understand that food kitchens have seen an overwhelming rise in the use of their services in the last few years. How about we tackle making more jobs and fixing the economy and not trying to dictate what the government says we should or should not eat!

    • stacey

      Survival does not include soda or fruit punch that is all sugar and water. Survival means water to drink. I think this ban should also include coffee & tea – both are not necessities to live. Meat, vegetables, potatoes/starch & water, vitamins and toilet paper, medicine, soap and toiletries; those are things that social services should pay for.

  • Emma

    Bloomberg purposely instituted economic policies that favor large businesses and wealthy individuals at the expense of middle and lower income individuals and families. Housing and transportation are prohibitively expensive in NYC. Employment prospects for anyone who isn’t a hedge fund manager is dicey, at best. What can people do to stay alive other than accept assistance in buying food? If you accept this assistance that the federal government provides, Bloomberg wants to treat you as if you are a feeble-minded child. New Yorkers need jobs so that all of us can provide for ourselves. What no one needs is Bloomberg’s pre-Civil War mentality.

    • Kberg

      Somewhat agree, if bloomberg framed this as a tax issue, he is not truthful, given that trans-fats are banned from regardless, I agree they should be banned, but I wouldn’t legislate it instead disclosure would allow folks to ban it from diet, I agree wall street is a place to be in nyc, nyc is expensive though other factors exist, I am tired of the mayor and his views, he was there a long time, he does not have direct control of the issues .

  • Deb

    Oh yeah, let them keep buying their soda and beer with their foodstamps, and their cigarettes with their EBT cash….great plan. What a waste.

    • giggles

      Beer? Deb is an idiot.

      • Kberg

        Deb is right about the ebt cash it can be used for almost anything since its cash.

      • HE,HE,HE

        Hey Giggles….. you don’t know what the F you’re talikng about, do you???

    • Jim

      You obviously don’t know how the food stamp system works. Alcoholic beverages and cigarettes are prohibited from purchase with food stamps. Soda is regarded as ”food’.

      Do you honestly care that much or are you just mean-spirited by nature?

      • Geeeeezzzzzzzzzzz

        Local grocery stores allow people to buy beer with the card…. They are not supposed to …..BUT THEY DO JIM>>>>>> Did you just move to NY yesterday?????? They let people buy cigarettes and EZwider… who do you think really can stop them…. wake up would you..

    • Diane

      @ frank, you are a very angry,racist bitter person. I’m part Italian, call me what you may. I’m a happy and peaceful woman.

    • Laura J. Smith

      Beer? I don’t even drink! Deb you have no clue as to what you are talking about. I have had to make choices that God forbid that you will never have to make.

  • goblin

    They should have a limit on how many years you can collect benefits like food stamps and worry less about micro managing peoples lives.

    • Ray

      And they should also bring back all of our manufacturing jobs so people can get off of food stamps.

      • factchecker


      • Diane

        @ Ray, food stamps are giving to those who perhaps need to eat. Sadly its qualifications are based solely on your income, if you are an employed tax paying citizen such as myself. Everytime I receive my pay, I’m stunned at the amount of deductions that go towards the city/state pot for non-working people. I wish my husband and I were intitled, we would definitely be first on line.

      • 53% Tax Bracket

        Hey Diane, Just do what the Russian and Chinese do…. have a cash job, cry poverty… then have a house and car in someone else’s name.. Nice scam, huh?? The system is supposed to help the real poor… not the one’s who appear poor on paper!!

    • Bobby

      @Diane Your assumption the State/City taxes are all going to non-working people shows your ignorance and lack of compassion. Your city taxes are mainly going for things like infra-structure you know the roads you drive on to get to work. Where do you think the money to fix the pot=holes and snow removal comes from? Where do you think the money for police and fire departments comes from? Garbage pick=up? Unemployment Insurance may go towards non-working people but then that could be you, when one day your job is out-sourced. Or the business you work for closes through no fault of yours. The United States has one of the lowest tax rates in the world and people like you whine as if every penny is taken from them. If you feel state taxes are to high then you probably live in a state like New Jersey where the state only gets back 61 cents for every tax dollar collected by the federal government. This deficiency is going to support low tax states like Alabama that gets back $1.66 for every dollar collected. Why are you not complaining about all the welfare states?

      • Diane

        Bobby, I never mentioned that my tax dollars go ONLY to non-workers. My husband and have put in a combined total of 37 yrs to a City Agency. We reside in Union..paying 12k prperty taxes..4k mortgage….water…sewage and trash/lawn disposal. I don’t lack the compassion because many yrs ago when my 25yr old was a baby I needed the asisstance in question. We pay NJ & NY taxes, if we can possibly stop the bleeding it would be a miracle. The frustration festers when I see non-working, asisstance receiving people milking the system selfishly. If that says I lack the compassion ,its difficult for me to apologize.

  • paterson

    Bloomberg is the worst mayor ever!

    • paul

      he is the biggest A hokle we ever had as Mayor. Thank the Lord he is leaving. He is a wise ass that want to control everyone/. Go fishing in the desert Bloomberg.

    • Diane

      @ paterson, what does a billionaire know about living paycheck to paycheck? What does he know about hunger, not having enough food, preparing your childrens’ plate first to make sure there’s enough to go around? Making partial payments on your bills, deciding between RENT or the smiles on their faces when its time to shop for school or holiday gifts. He’s a billionaire, he can only understand or perhaps sympathize with those realities if he’s been there.

      • factchecker

        I don’t think you need to be poor to understand, did he grow up poor, but his proposal is more of a nanny-state, now the issue is tax payer funds but singling out sodas and not sugary fruit juices or chocolate milkshakes is unwise , and it fails to really target obesity, it just labels food stamp users at buying pop and that is what causing obesity, rather than lack of vegetables or the type of, and cooking, a bagel with cream cheese or a salty chinese food dish in the frozen asile is no better so its unfair, the system cannot be easily programmed to single out junk food, even staples in excess are junk, a biscuit or fries laid with butter, oil, and cheese is junk but its a staple, soda is a staple.

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