Americans use food stamps to buy more than $600 million worth of “sweetened beverages,” and bought hundreds of millions more of junk food and sugary snacks, according to a report published by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Overall, food stamps worth nearly $1.3 billion were spent on “sweetened drinks, desserts, salty snacks, candy, and sugar,” which accounted for about 20 cents of every dollar spent on food items purchased by 26.5 million households in 2011, said the report.
The USDA administers the $74 billion food stamp program, also known as SNAP or the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program.
The report compared spending patterns between SNAP and non-SNAP households and found that “sweetened beverages,” which includes fruit juices, energy drinks, and sweetened teas, accounted for nearly 10 percent of the total amount of money spent on food.
“In this sense, SNAP is a multibillion-dollar taxpayer subsidy of the soda industry,” Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University told the New York Times. “It’s pretty shocking.”
Overall, SNAP users spent 22.8 percent of their benefit on sugary drinks, desserts, salty snacks, candy, sugar, plus jams and sweets, and only 11.9 percent on fruits and vegetables. Families that don’t use the SNAP program spent 20 percent of their funds on those sweet items, and 16.3 percent on fruits and vegetables.
The multi-billion dollar, taxpayer funded food stamps program has become increasingly controversial thanks, in part, to its massive growth under President Obama.