Officials in New York this week unveiled a plan to exclude most sugar-sweetened beverages from the list of purchases allowed through the nation's food stamp program. Under the proposal, New York City participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, would receive the same benefits, but the ban on sweetened drinks is meant to encourage more spending on nutritious foods and beverages.
IDFA verified that milk products, even if sweetened, are specifically excluded from the ban. The proposal defines sugar-sweetened beverages as "those containing more than 10 calories per eight ounces (except fruit juices without added sugar, milk products and milk substitutes)."
"This initiative will give New York families more money to spend on foods and drinks that provide real nourishment," said New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Devised as a two-year pilot, the program is part of an overall push by city officials to fight obesity and encourage residents to pay more attention to issues of health and nutrition.
"IDFA believes the exemption is a very positive step, because it recognizes the nutritional benefits that milk and flavored milk provide," said Cary Frye, IDFA vice president of regulatory affairs. "And, at less than 25 cents a glass, it's a nutritional bargain, offering more nutrition per penny than virtually any other beverage."
New York's office of Temporary and Disability Assistance has submitted the proposal to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which must approve the pilot program. Once approved, New York City plans to launch a public information campaign about the new policy. It also plans a detailed evaluation at the end of the two-year program to assess whether the initiative actually resulted in fewer purchases of sugar-sweetened drinks and helped to improve participants' health.