The US government buys poor people $6.44 billion worth of sweetened beverages per year through SNAP, the food stamp program.
It didn’t take too much work to arrive at that figure. SNAP households spent 9.25 percent of their grocery budgets on sweetened beverages, according to a new USDA report. The USDA report improved on the Yale study by looking at a nationwide grocery chain through an entire year rather than a regional chain during only part of the year. We are fairly safe in drawing inferences about the total SNAP recipient population from this sample group. In fact, the USDA does so itself (Note that sweetened beverages include both soft drinks and non-carbonated beverages such as lemonade and Kool-Aid).
The SNAP program handed out $69,655,470,000 in benefits last year, and 9.25 percent of that makes $6,443,130,975. This suggests that the US government foots the bill for at least $6.44 billion worth of subsidized sweetened beverage purchases last year. This is more than five times the CDC’s yearly budget for “Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.” The US Government spends over five times more money buying poor people sweetened beverages than it allocates to preventing chronic disease.