Madison Mayor Paul Soglin is part of a group of mayors asking federal officials to ban food stamps from being used to buy soda and other sugary drinks.
The letter, sent to congressional leaders Tuesday, asks officials to maintain funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and suggests improvements.
The letter says the mayors recognize the role the SNAP program has played in impacting the challenges of poverty and poor health. The mayors say funding cuts would undermine the program’s role as a buffer against food insecurity and poverty.
In the letter, the mayors say it’s “time to test and evaluate approaches limiting” the use of the subsidies for sugar-laden beverages, in the interest of fighting obesity and diet-related diseases.
“I’m not a big fan of regulating the big gulp drinks but certainly we’ve got both a human and financial interest in a healthy community whether it’s dealing with everything from discouraging smoking to a healthy lifestyle, exercise and diet,” said Soglin.
The letter also says SNAP should promote healthful eating by providing incentives for the consumption of fruits and vegetables by SNAP recipients.
Soglin said more than one-third of American adults are obese and that changes to SNAP would help encourage healthy eating.
The mayors say some of their cities have successfully piloted similar programs that provide additional spending power to recipients who use their benefits at farmers markets.
The mayors say maintaining funding and limiting subsidies for sugar-sweetened beverages will help ensure all residents have access to healthy foods and to reduce health disparities across populations.
Other cities whose mayors signed the letter include Salt Lake City, New York, Newark, Chicago, Louisville, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, Boston, Philadelphia, Oakland, Baltimore, Minneapolis, St. Louis, Phoenix, Providence, Los Angeles.