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Mayors Push To Stop Food Stamps From Being Used To Buy Sugary Drinks

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Waging war against obesity. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, and more than a dozen mayors across the country, are making a push to stop food stamps from being used to purchase sugary drinks and snacks.

Christie Ileto explains.

Last year, about 47 million Americans were using food stamps, or the SNAP assistance government program. Some of that money was used to purchase not-so-healthy items. And that's something this group of mayors wants to change.

Behind the bubbles and fizz are what Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake calls a sugary drink linked to health risks.

"As mayors, we also have to look for ways that can create a disincentive for the unhealthy eating habits that are contributing to the epidemic of childhood obesity," said Mayor Rawlings-Blake. "And reducing the subsidy for sugary drinks is one of those ways."

She and 17 other city mayors are urging Congress to stop allowing SNAP benefits, or food stamps, from being used to buy sugary drinks, and instead give incentive's to those buying fruits and vegetables.

They write: "More than a third of American adults are now obese, costing approximately $147 billion per year in associated medical expenses."

But at Apples and Oranges Fresh Market, eight-year-old Anya Hall already knows healthy eating.

"Bananas are my favorite and I haven't ate them in a long time," the little girl said.

Apples and Oranges opened this year in east Baltimore, and they've made a conscious effort not to carry a lot of sugary drinks and snacks.

"We believe we can offer the healthier items, and we're seeing it. People are coming in more and more looking for the fruit," said Michele Speaks-March, Apples and Oranges.

The American Beverage Association has long argued sugary drinks shouldn't be pegged as the only cause of obesity.

Even Coca-Cola is changing some of their ads to pitch healthier beverages.

But with 47 million Americans using food stamps last year, Baltimore's top official says rewarding healthy eating is an incentive to stop unhealthy food choices.

Right now, ood stamps cannot be used to purchase cigarettes or alcohol.

Research has linked sugary drinks to 180,000 annual deaths worldwide.

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