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Louisville Mayor Wants Sugary Drinks Exempt from Food Stamps

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer joined other big cities mayors in signing a letter to Congressional Leaders John Boehner (R) and Nancy Pelosi (D), asking that Congress bar recipients of food stamp benefits from buying sugary drinks like cokes. 

The mayors also asked that the food stamp program provide more incentives for recipients to purchase more fruits and vegetables.

Here is the letter:

Dear Speaker Boehner and Minority Leader Pelosi:
 
As you resume your consideration of the Farm Bill, we write regarding our concern about proposed cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which provides essential food support to families and individuals across the country. As the mayors of major cities across the United States, we see the impact that poverty and poor health have on our most vulnerable residents, and we recognize the role that the SNAP program has played in mitigating these challenges. We urge you to maintain funding for this program and also to consider our suggestions for its improvement. 
 
Today, approximately 47 million Americans, more than half of whom are children and seniors, rely on this program, in many cases during transitional periods of hardship. If enacted, the proposed deep cuts to SNAP would undermine the program’s role as a buffer against both food insecurity and poverty – a role that the program should play for all those who can demonstrate the appropriate level of economic need, including the formerly incarcerated who have already paid their debt to society. 
 
We also believe the program can do more to address the pressing challenge of obesity and dietrelated disease. More than one third of American adults are now obese, costing approximately $147 billion per year in associated medical expenses. As a result of obesity, this generation of American children is the first to face the possibility of a shorter life expectancy than their parents. It is time to test and evaluate approaches limiting SNAP’s subsidization of products, such as sugar-sweetened beverages, that are contributing to obesity. At the same time, SNAP can also promote healthful eating by providing incentives for the consumption of fruits and vegetables by SNAP recipients, similar to the programs which have been successfully piloted in many of our cities that provide additional spending power to recipients who use their benefits at farmers markets. 
 
Finally, SNAP can also be strengthened by Congressional support for state- and local-level antifraud efforts aimed at retailers, to ensure public confidence that food stamp dollars are getting to those in need. 
 
There could not be a more critical time for Congress to create a Farm Bill that protects our nutrition assistance programs and is responsive to the mounting crisis of diet-related disease that we are facing. In our cities we are working to ensure that all of our residents have access to healthy foods and to reduce health disparities across populations. Our ability to advance these goals will be significantly impacted by the next Farm Bill. We believe that your objectives of fiscal responsibility and a healthy future can be met while protecting the most vulnerable and strengthening the nation’s most significant nutrition assistance program. 
Fischer was joined in signing the letter by mayors of New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, Philadelphia, and other large metropolitan cities.
 
The Louisville mayor issued a statement as reported by the Courier-Journal:
In a statement released Wednesday, Fischer said the 130,715 families in Louisville receiving assistance from SNAP were his primary motivation for signing the letter to Congress.

“I am very concerned that, with the proposed cuts in the program, it would have a significant negative impact on the mothers and fathers who need assistance to feed themselves and their children,” Fischer said. “Our city has numerous health problems, and we’ve been working diligently to bring fresh fruits and vegetables to underserved neighborhoods.”

Fischer said city officials are working to make SNAP cards eligible for purchases at local farmers markets.

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