In recent years, the USDA has received requests from several cities and states to allow pilot projects to remove sodas from items that can be purchased with SNAP benefit cards.
The agency has always found reasons to deny the requests, as it did for one from New York City in 2011.
The latest “denial” is to a request from the state of Maine for a pilot project to eliminate soft drinks and candy. I put denial in quotes because it’s not actually a denial. It’s a request for more information. USDA wants to know:
- Whether Maine’s previous responses to previous queries still apply.
- What would happen without this restriction?
- Whether there will be a pre- and post-implementation data collection on purchases before and after the pilot.
- How Maine will correct for biases due to self-reporting of purchase data.
- Why Maine isn’t planning to get agreement from retailers to provide data.
- If Maine plans to provide a reasonable and legal time frame.
- Whether Maine plans to submit a new request for a waiver to cover use of SNAP-ED funds.
- What the evidence base is for using SNAP-ED funds as Maine plans.
- The full costs of this effort.
If Maine is serious about wanting to do this, it will have a lot more work to do. USDA might as well have issued another denial.