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Food Stamps & Nutrition Controversy

More than 40 million Americans are now on food stamps. What does that mean? And should they be allowed to use them to buy soda?

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, right, and NY Gov. David Paterson, center, unveil an initiative excluding soda from food stamp purchases, Oct. 7, 2010 (AP)

Forty one million Americans are now on food stamps. And the number is still soaring. It’s up another 18 percent from a year ago, and it’s hitting all-time records for 19 straight months now. 

One in every eight Americans needing public support to eat — to avoid hunger. That is a big, troubling issue in itself. 

And then there’s this: New York City wants to stop its food stamp recipients from buying sodas with their government subsidy. Mayor Michael Bloomberg says it’s to fight obesity — another big national problem. 

We take it all on: hunger, food stamps, sodas, and fat.

-Tom Ashbrook

Related shows: A caller in today’s segment referenced food writer Michael Pollan. Link to our great shows with Pollan on “Omnivore’s Dilemma” and more recently on “Food Rules.”

Guests:

Jason DeParle, senior writer at the New York Times and a frequent contributor to the New York Times Magazine. He is author of “American Dream: Three Women, Ten Kids, and a Nation’s Drive to End Welfare.”

Marlene Schwartz, deputy director for the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University.

Thomas Farley, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which has an annual budget of $1.6 billion and more than 6,000 staff.

Ellen Vollinger, Legal Director, Food Research and Action Center, an organization that works to eradicate hunger and under nutrition. The Center has come out against Michael Bloomberg’s proposal to bar food stamps from being used on sugary drinks.

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