In Food Policy This Week: 5 News Bites

A roundup of news clippings we're reading that affect the way we eat.

San Francisco Proposes Soda Tax, Farm Bill Negotiations, and More in Food Policy This Week

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Scene from Prop 37 rally in California [Photograph: AM Michaels on Flickr]

Farm Bill Negotiations Begin—Again

Last Wednesday, the House and Senate re-started debate over the Farm Bill. Farm Bill negotiations had previously stalled as the government shutdown and budget crisis took center stage in Congress. Now, lawmakers are suiting up to try to achieve a compromise between the Senate and House versions of the Bill. One of the most contentious issues at hand is cuts to the food stamp program: the Senate bill includes $4 billion in cuts to the program, while the House bill includes $40 billion in cuts. Either Bill would have a significant impact on food stamp recipients across the U.S., and the Bill will also likely include steep cuts to or elimination of the direct payment program, which pays farmers regardless of their crop harvest.

San Francisco Latest City to Propose Soda Tax

New York, Richmond, Providence, and several other cities have proposed taxes on sodas and sweetened beverages in recent years, but none have succeeded. San Francisco Supervisor Scott Weiner wants his city to become the first to impose a soda tax, proposing a November 2014 vote that would tax soda at 2 cents per ounce. This would increase the cost of a can of soda by 24 cents, a steeper tax than many other cities have suggested. Weiner estimates that the tax would generate $30 million in additional revenue, which could be put toward the city's physical education and healthy lunch programs. The tax would apply to beverages with added sugar and more than 25 calories per ounce.

Johns Hopkins Study Demonstrates Poor Black Neighborhoods Have Lowest Food Access

Food deserts are a hot topic of conversation in academia and public policy these days. Many non-profit and governmental organizations are examining how to roll out national healthy food initiatives that would improve health outcomes in low-access communities. In a recent study, a team of researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that low-income black communities have lower food access than white and Hispanic communities with similar levels of income. Researchers note that the study demonstrates that food access is as much an issue of racial discrimination as economic discrimination.

Cuts to Food Stamp Program Begin November 1

In the wake of the 2009 recession, there was a temporary boost to food stamp funding. That boost expired last week. As of November 1st, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program budget shrank by 5%, about $4 billion. For the 47 million Americans currently receiving food stamps, this could mean a drop of $36/month for a family of four. The average monthly benefit received by households in the U.S. was $278 last year. Many food stamp recipients must already bolster their diets with food from donation, pantries, and soup kitchens. This decrease in benefits will put further strain on those already struggling to make ends meet.

About the Author: Leah Douglas loves learning about, talking about, reading about, and consuming food. Her other work can be found at her website, and you can follow her on Twitter @leahjdouglas.

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