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USDA Study: Soft Drinks Lead All Other Food Stamp Purchases


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Researchers with the U.S. Department of Agriculture looked into the shopping carts of Americans who rely on food stamps and, according to a recently released report, the No. 1 grocery purchase for households that depend on the supplemental nutrition program, or SNAP, turned out to be soft drinks.

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.

  • USDA
The new study from the Department of Agriculture found that while soda was the No. 1 purchase among SNAP beneficiaries, milk was the No. 1 purchase among non-SNAP households. The report was based on data from an unnamed nationwide grocery chain that provided data to the USDA.

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."


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