Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity
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Rudd Radar

Federal Food Program Pays Billions for Sugar-Sweetened Beverages

September 17, 2012

The federal government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) pays at least $2 billion annually for sugar-sweetened beverages purchased in grocery stores alone, according to a study recently published by the Rudd Center in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. The study provided a conservative estimate on spending because it did not include sugar-sweetened beverage SNAP purchases from other retail channels such as convenience stores or Walmart.

Researchers found that 58 percent of all refreshment beverages purchased by SNAP participants were for sugar-sweetened beverages such as regular soda, fruit drinks, and sports drinks. According to the researchers, SNAP benefits paid for 72 percent of these purchases.

“SNAP benefits are critically important in helping low-income families put food on the table, and in this economy, many American families could not feed their children without the federal food assistance provided by SNAP,” said Tatiana Andreyeva, PhD, lead author and Director of Economic Initiatives at the Rudd Center.

“At the same time, the annual use of billions of dollars in SNAP benefits to purchase products at the core of public health concerns about obesity and chronic illnesses is misaligned with the goal of helping economically vulnerable families live active, healthy lives,” Andreyeva added. “Anti-hunger and public health advocates should work together to ensure that all government food assistance programs are implemented in a way that is consistent with helping Americans meet government dietary recommendations.”

The paper was co-authored by the Rudd Center’s Tatiana Andreyeva, PhD, Director of Economic Initiatives; Joerg Luedicke, MS, Statistical Consultant; Kathryn Henderson, PhD, Director of School and Community Initiatives; and Amanda Tripp, MPH, Yale doctoral student in public health.