NY Seeks to Ban Sugary Drinks from Food Stamp Buys

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New York could become the first state to ban buying sugary drinks with food stamps.
New York City officials have asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to approve the request, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. David Paterson announced Thursday.

The proposal is part of an aggressive anti-obesity push by Bloomberg.

"Sugar-sweetened drinks are not worth the cost to our health, and government shouldn't be promoting or subsidizing them," said Bloomberg, whose city has also outlawed trans-fats in restaurant food and has forced chain restaurants to post calorie counts on menus.

Should the measure be approved, it would be the first time the food stamp program banned an item based solely on its nutritional value. 
More than half of New York City residents are overweight. City officials say lower income residents drink one or more sodas a day.

The temporary program would only apply to the Big Apple's 1.7 million food stamp recipients and would allow officials to study its effects over two years. The program would not alter the amount of assistance residents receive.

However, opponents of the ban say it unfairly targets the city's impoverished residents.

"It's sending the message to low-income people that they are uniquely the only people in America who don't know how to take care of their family," said Joel Berg, executive director of New York City Coalition Against Hunger.

"The problem isn't that they're making poor choices," he said. "The problem is that they can't afford nutritious food."

*Originally published on October 8, 2010.

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