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The Physicians Committee

NEWS RELEASE August 25, 2011

Doctors Urge Mayor Bloomberg to Fight Feds on Food Stamp Plan

New Plan Dramatically Simplifies Food Stamps, Would Save $240 Billion Nationally

WASHINGTON—Doctors are encouraging New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to fight the U.S. Department of Agriculture on its refusal to allow the city to reform the food stamp program. The nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) is offering Mayor Bloomberg a new plan to resuscitate New York City’s failed attempt to bar grocers from accepting food stamps when selling sugary drinks.

The doctors’ proposal creates a simple, short list of eligible, obesity-fighting staples that food stamp users can choose from, including fruits, vegetables, beans, and grains, and bar unhealthy foods like sugary sodas, high-fat dairy foods, and processed meats.

PCRM’s plan, if implemented nationwide, would save $240 billion over 10 years, and would reduce the nation’s health care costs. New York City has more than 1.8 million of America's 45.7 million food stamp beneficiaries.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture rejected Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal as too complicated to implement. The mayor’s plan would have launched a two-year experiment to see if barring food stamp users from buying sodas and other sugary drinks with food stamps would reduce an obesity epidemic in the city. About 57 percent of adults in the city and 40 percent of the children in its public schools are overweight or obese, and obesity is especially rampant in low-income neighborhoods.

“The USDA’s veto of New York’s reform efforts is a slap in the face to food stamp users and grocers,” said PCRM president Neal Barnard, M.D. “It is demeaning to assume that economically disadvantaged people feel a need for junk food. This plan would save the city millions of dollars in healthcare costs, and is a win-win for everybody.”

PCRM’s proposal revamps the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. It limits eligible foods to a short list of staples, like oats, rice, and other grains, dry beans, fruits, and vegetables, and eliminates unhealthy foods, such as sugary drinks, candy, processed meats, and high-fat dairy items.

For more information on PCRM’s proposal, or to speak with PCRM nutrition education director Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., please contact Vaishali Honawar at 202-527-7339, or

Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.

Media Contact:
Vaishali Honawar

Neal Barnard, M.D.

Related Link:
Cutting Costs and Improving Health: Federal Food Policy Reforms Could Save Billions

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