SNAP benefits going to sugar-sweetened beverage purchases

September 18, 2012

A study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine shows that $2 billion of funds from the U.S. federal government’s Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) goes to purchasing sugar-sweetened beverages at grocery stores.

The researchers collected data from a regional supermarket chain. They also examined beverage choices made by families participating in federal nutrition assistance programs. They found that 58% 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% 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, lead author and Director of Economic Initiatives at Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity. “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. 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.”

Study (pdf)