The SNAP Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Debate: Restricting Purchases to Improve Health Outcomes of Low-Income Americans
Nicole E. Negowetti
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a highly effective government program that reduces poverty and improves food security for millions of our country’s most vulnerable families. Amid threats of budget cuts to this critical program in the 2018 Farm Bill, advocates representing various interests have banded together in support of this vital program. However, the issue of restricting the purchase of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) with SNAP benefits has divided anti-hunger and public health advocates. While public health and medical officials support the idea of restrictions on junk food, arguing that SNAP should improve health and nutrition, not contribute to the obesity epidemic, anti-hunger advocates fervently oppose restrictions for being too burdensome to implement, stigmatizing, unlikely to change eating habits, and used as a vehicle to cut the size of SNAP. This article will evaluate the debates surrounding a restriction on the purchase of SSBs with SNAP benefits. It will draw on research that examines the impact of SNAP on food consumption and evaluates various factors affecting food choice and access. This article ultimately proposes a state or local pilot program in the 2018 Farm Bill to test the feasibility and effectiveness of a restriction on SSBs.