NEW YORK (AP) - The mayors of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and 15 other cities are reviving a push against letting food stamps be used to buy soda and other sugary drinks.
In a letter to congressional leaders today, the mayors say it's "time to test and evaluate approaches limiting" the use of the subsidies for sugar-laden beverages, in the interest of fighting obesity and related diseases.
"We need to find ways to strengthen the program and promote good nutrition while limiting the use of these resources for items with no nutritional value, like sugary drinks, that are actually harming the health of participants," Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose office released the letter, said in a statement. "Why should we continue supporting unhealthy purchases in the false name of nutrition assistance?"
The other cities whose mayors signed the letter are Baltimore; Boston; Louisville, Ky.; Madison, Wis.; Minneapolis; Newark, N.J.; Oakland, Calif.; Philadelphia; Phoenix; Portland, Ore.; Providence, R.I.; Salt Lake City; San Francisco; St. Louis; and Seattle.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which runs the food stamp program, declined to comment on Tuesday's letter; representatives for House Speaker John Boehner and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, to whom the letter was addressed, didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.
And the American Beverage Association, which has previously clashed with Bloomberg and has said sugary drinks shouldn't be singled out as a cause of obesity, had no immediate comment.
Last year more than 47 million Americans used food stamps - technically, the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
The benefits can't go to buy alcohol, cigarettes, hot food and some other items. Proposals to stop people from using the benefit to buy soda, candy and other items seen as unhealthy have been floated for decades; opponents have said such restrictions would be paternalistic and might discourage needy people from getting the subsidies.