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The Washington Post has a story about a study saying that soda promotions often are timed “to the days states distribute food stamp benefits.” The promotions tend to be for sugary drinks and not low-calorie varieties.

The Post writes that “low-income Americans drink far more soda than their wealthier neighbors, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as food stamps, has recently come under fire for the amount federal benefits recipients spend on sugary beverages, with some critics calling on the federal government to ban soda purchases. But this study demonstrates those trends are not entirely the fault of low-income shoppers, who are disproportionately bombarded by junk-food ads.”

According to the story, “This study is the first to tie food advertising to SNAP distribution patterns. Because food-stamp benefits are dispersed in a lump sum each month, and because many recipients spend those funds within a week of receiving them, stores frequently see higher sales and traffic in the days after benefits get reloaded.”
KC's View:
There are several potential problems with this study.

One is that all the data was generated in New York State, and may not be applicable to what happens elsewhere in the country. The data also is several years old, and the American Beverage Association (ABA) maintains that its members have “taken numerous steps to encourage consumers to drink less sugar since then. Soda companies have begun offering more diet drinks and repackaged full-sugar sodas in smaller sizes.” Soft drink companies say they do not take food stamp distribution into account when creating their marketing plans.

And Heather Garlich at the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) says that its “members have long advocated that there be no distinction made between SNAP customers and traditional customers. To suggest they would single out a segment of shoppers does not align with our philosophy regarding SNAP.”

I hope that’s true. Because to time ads to take advantage of disadvantaged folks would just be so cynical.