Soda Ban Recommended for Food Stamp Recipients

June 16, 2014
Jacquelyn Gray

To decrease the rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), a recent study has recommended a ban on sugar-sweetened drinks among food stamp recipients and endorsed an incentive program to encourage healthier eating habits.

To decrease the rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), a recent study published in Health Affairs has recommended a ban on sugar-sweetened drinks among food stamp recipients and endorsed an incentive program to encourage healthier eating habits.

According to a statement provided by the Stanford University School of Medicine, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (SNAP) authorizes the purchase of vegetables, dairy products, and whole grain items with food stamps, but it also permits the purchase of salty food and sodas. Since SNAP is funded by tax dollars, there have been concerns about taxpayers funding unhealthy behaviors that ultimately result in increased healthcare spending.

To understand how SNAP provisions affect the health of food stamp recipients, Sanjay Basu and colleagues at Stanford Medicine analyzed national data surrounding obesity, T2DM, and food consumption determinants among more than 19,000 SNAP participants.

In doing so, “we found that a ban on SNAP purchases of sugar-sweetened beverages would be expected to significantly reduce obesity prevalence and T2DM incidence, particularly among adults ages 18-65 and some racial and ethnic minorities,” the authors wrote.

To encourage healthier eating habits, the researchers recommended establishing an incentive program to give SNAP recipients 30 cents for every dollar spent on fruits and vegetables. Although the authors admitted that such a subsidy policy “would not be expected to have a significant effect on obesity and T2DM, given available data,” they noted it could “more than double the proportion of SNAP participants who meet federal vegetable and fruit consumption guidelines.”

By implementing a subsidy policy, the researchers estimated food stamp recipients’ daily consumption of fruits and vegetables would increase by a quarter of one cup.

“It’s very rare that we can reach that many people with one policy change and just one program,” Basu commented.