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Ban On Using Food Stamps To Buy Soda Rejected By U.S.D.A …

February 7, 2012 by staff 

Ban On Using Food Stamps To Buy Soda Rejected By U.S.D.A …, Federal officials on Friday rejected Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s proposal to bar New York City’s food stamp users from buying soda and other sugary drinks with them.

The decision derailed one of the mayor’s big ideas to fight obesity and poor nutrition in the city. Mr. Bloomberg and the city’s health commissioner, Dr. Thomas A. Farley, were quick to criticize the ruling by the United States Department of Agriculture as a disservice to low-income residents.

Dr. Farley, who said he was “very upset” by the decision, said that it “ really calls into question how serious the U.S.D.A. is about addressing the nation’s most serious nutritional problem.”

In October, city and state officials proposed a two-year experiment to see if the prohibition would reduce obesity among people who buy their groceries with food stamps. Dr. Farley said that about 57 percent of adults in the city and 40 percent of the children in its public schools were overweight or obese, and that obesity was especially rampant in low-income neighborhoods. Limiting consumption of sodas and other drinks with high sugar content, he argued, could help reverse that trend.

But in a letter to a New York State official, an administrator of the food stamp program in Washington said the city’s proposed experiment would have been “too large and complex” to implement and evaluate.

Jessica Shahin, an associate administrator in the Agriculture Department, wrote that the waiver the city sought was denied because of the logistical difficulty of sorting out which beverages could or could not be purchased with food stamps and because it would be hard to gauge how effective the step was in reducing obesity. As an alternative, Ms. Shahin suggested the federal government could work with the city on other efforts to encourage consumers to make “healthy choices.”

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