New York wants to stop people who use food stamps from buying soda and other sweetened beverages. With grave concerns about obesity in general and childhood obesity in particular, Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Patterson are arguing the way to promote healthy food choices is to redefine soda so it’s not a food. It can’t be a healthy food choice if it’s not a food.
Now, I don’t like soda. The bubbles, they make me uncomfortable, and I don’t think I have to get into the plastic bottle situation. But I also don’t like the deeply cynical and socially divisive strategy the Mayor and Governor are using to limit the amount of soda sold and consumed.
We all need to teach our children healthy eating habits and model them ourselves. Bloomberg got transfats out of New York restaurants, making some food choices de facto very slightly healthy food choices. But at a time (and in a city) where the difference between the haves and have nots is profound, is it a good idea to tell people they can’t buy what they want with the food support available?
Nutrition for kids is a big deal. Parents, caregivers and educators need to teach kids how to make good food choices for themselves. Is it empowering to tell a caregiver she doesn’t know how to buy healthy food for kids or establish healthy habits in her household by saying she doesn’t know not to buy soda? And what happens when the kids in houses who use food stamps get a stomach bug? Who’s going to get them some flat Ginger Ale?
Is soda a food? I don’t even know how to answer that question. But I think if the Mayor wants to say “No it’s not” he needs to make it not a food for everyone and not just those who already have enough on their plates and not enough money to pay for it. What do you think?