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According to The New York Times purchases of soft drinks and other "sweetened beverages" like fruit juices, energy drinks and sweet teas, accounted for nearly 10 percent of all SNAP dollars.
"In this sense, SNAP is a multibillion-dollar taxpayer subsidy of the soda industry," New York University Professor Marion Nestle told The Times.
There are approximately 43 million Americans who participate in SNAP. In December 2016, 176,063 Idahoans received SNAP benefits, about 11 percent of the state's population. In Ada County, there were 35,406 SNAP beneficiaries in December 2016—8 percent of the county's total population. In Canyon County, there were 31,671 residents receiving SNAP benefits in December, more than 15 percent of the county population.
Considering the large numbers of SNAP participants, starting in July 2016, the SNAP program began staggering its distribution system over the first 10 days of the month, spreading out recipients' visits to Gem State grocery stores.
Overall, the report found SNAP household spent about 40 cents of every dollar on basic items (i.e. milk, eggs, meat, fruits, vegetables and bread) while another 40 cents was spent on prepared foods, cereal, rice and beans. About 20 cents of each dollar was spent on items like candy, soda, desserts and salty snacks.
"No one is suggesting poor people can't choose what they want to eat," Dr. Scott Ludwig, of Boston Children's Hospital, told The Times. "But we're saying let's not use government benefits to pay for foods that are demonstrably going to undermine public health."