Equity, Autonomy and Preference Formation in Social Policy: Evaluating Food and Nutrition Service Critiques in U.S. Food Policy from an Interventionist Perspective

924917701e19abaf4979_photo__4_.jpg
924917701e19abaf4979_photo__4_.jpg

It is no small diffident fact that sugar sweetened beverage (SSB) consumption has increased dramatically in the United States over the last 30 years.  But, whereas SSB consumption is highest among young adults, child and adolescent consumption is not far behind.  And while economists agree that government intervention in a market is warranted when there are market failures that result in less than optimal production and consumption, several market failures exist for sugar-sweetened beverages.  First, many persons make consumption decisions with imperfect information, failing to fully appreciate the links between consumption and health consequences.  These decisions are likely to be further distorted by the extensive marketing that can raise the perceived benefits of consumption.  But exactly how much of a distortion can we expect?  I believe significant amount enough to warrant frequent advertisement campaigns beyond just the obese.  A second failure results from time-inconsistent preferences or decisions that provide short-term gratification but long-term harm.  This problem is exacerbated for children and adolescents who place a higher value on present satisfaction while more heavily discounting future consequences.  We must therefore be considerate to the criticism by well- wishing consumers of brands like Coca-Cola which has been in business for over one hundred and twenty years, that policies are modifying public assistance programs to promote a healthier diet among participants and this becomes inequitable, an issue that was recently raised by New York City’s request to exclude sugar-sweetened beverages from Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs. 

I argue that there are two senses in which healthy food policies might be considered inequitable, they are unfair, and so violate distributive equality, or they are disrespectful and so violate social equality, or they are disrespectful and so violate social equality.  However, neither of these concerns offers decisive ethical objections to these policies.  Distributive equality does not require maximal consumer choice, and there are reasons why the government might prioritize citizens’ interests in promoting their health over their interests in consuming sugar-sweetened beverages when designing food assistance programs.  The concern that these policies send demeaning messages about Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program participants, and so violate social equality, is more pressing.  However, I argue that there is hope.  Policies can be interpreted as sending various messages, and what a policy is interpreted as saying is complex and negotiated by the various interests and perspectives in a society.  It is not a foregone conclusion that health policy would be widely interpreted as sending negative messages about Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs participants rather messages about the nutritional value of sugar-sweetened beverages.  Nevertheless, when there is a possibility of negative messaging, lawmakers and others in government have an obligation to participate in the public dialogue to ensure that the policy promotes everyone’s equality.  While there is a chance that the sweetened beverage exclusion could be interpreted as sending negative messages about Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program participants, this is by no means an inevitable result, and it is a risk that can perhaps be mitigated. 

It is important to remember that non-soda SSBs have been making up the majority of SSBs in both middle and high schools.  While soda has been especially unlikely to be found in vending machines; non- soda SSBs have been widely available across competitive venues.  Access to soda has decreased significantly over the last five years; however, non-soda SSB access has not shown a similar decrease.  School policy allowing beverage supplier contractual involvement, for example, bottling contract incentives and beverage supplier ‘say’ in vending machine beverage choices, was related to increased SSB access.  However, the existence of developed nutritional guidelines was associated with lower SSB availability. 

Processes of incremental change in effective policy can vary in the extent to which they are continuous versus non-continuous.  Continuous incremental change involves a more or less non-stop process of small change that will endure for the full duration of a jurisdiction’s decision to ‘move’ or ‘impede’ sale of items.  At its source is a constant cause that operates without interruption.  By contrast, non- continuous incremental change in this type of consumption entails a series of small steps moving in the same direction over time.  This kind of change results from a serial or repeated causal process.

One objection to a SSB tax is that it would be regressive, that is just what NYC did in 2012 with a New York Soda Ban approved by the Board of Health.  In this ban, New York consented to limiting the sale of large-sized, sugary drinks.  The limits, however, did not apply to drinks sold in grocery stores, diet sodas, drinks that are to be more than 70 percent fruit juice, or that contained alcohol.  A second objection could be that taxing SSBs would not solve the obesity crisis and is a rather blunt instrument that affects even those who consume low amounts.  I argue that without habitual consumption there is hope for reversal of policy in the future.  Hasn’t this been a major accomplishment of agriculturalists in their promotion of acai berry caffeinated drinks as of late?  They’ve proved that sugary drinks can be sold successfully in major grocery chains like Whole Foods Stores.
                                

 The Guest Column is our readers' opportunity to write about a given issue or topic in an in-depth and educational manner.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of TAPinto.net or anyone who works for TAPinto.net. TAPinto.net is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Berkeley Heights

Pieces of Time: Applause Rings Out In Two Columbia Middle School Classrooms

February 23, 2018

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – Thursday night, the mass murder of students and faculty members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Wednesday, Feb. 14, seemed to be on everyone’s mind at the Board of Education meeting.

The board observed a moment of silence following the Pledge of Allegiance for the 17 people killed and 14 wounded in the shooting, as well as ...

Local Advisor Celebrates the 20th Anniversary of the Roth IRA

BASKING RIDGE, NJ - 2018 marks the 20th anniversary of the Roth IRA. First made available to American investors in 1998, a Roth IRA is an individual retirement account that is funded with after-tax dollars and provides tax-free growth and income for retirement.

In honor of this significant milestone, Walter Pardo, CEO/Certified Wealth Strategist at Wealth ...

Giving Back: Learn How to Help Victims of Sexual Violence

February 24, 2018

Every year since 1984, trained volunteers with the Union County Rape Crisis Center have helped victims of sexual violence through the emotional, medical and legal aftermath of trauma. New volunteers are welcome to join the next series of training classes beginning on Thursday, March 22.

No previous experience in crisis counseling is necessary.

“Over the years our Rape Crisis Center ...

New Providence High School Presents The Addams Family -Tickets are Now On Sale

The Addams Family, who first came to life in the 1960s television series, will come back to life and take the stage at New Providence High School in March in a comedic musical twist on the classic story and characters.  Morticia, Gomez, Wednesday, Grandma, Fester, and Lurch, along with new characters and a full cast of Addams Ancestors will bring the creepy, kooky, all together ooky ...

WFP Tax Partners Walks You Through 4 Step Tax Return Process

Over 80% of Tax Returns Have Errors or Missed Deductions. You're Probably Paying More Than Your Fair Share in Taxes

BASKING RIDGE, NJ - Tax returns certainly give a clear picture of the past year, but WFP Tax Partners believes it's wise to strategize for the current year to have a plan for moving forward. 

At your tax appointment, they ...

Reminder: Free Wellness Program for Union County Military Women

All Union County women with military service – veterans, active duty and reserve – are invited to join “Boots 2 Heels,” a free event designed to foster wellness and connect women with resources and guidance for empowerment. Boots 2 Heels will be held on Saturday, February 24 at the Westfield Armory, located at 500 Rahway Avenue in Westfield.

The event is free but ...

Colleen Mahr Has Paid Her Dues, Earned Peoples’ Trust, and Left a Track Record of Success

February 20, 2018

Dear Editor:

As a 26-year-old Scotch Plains resident who cares more about the well-being of our town than about local politics, I am extremely disappointed that the Scotch Plains Democratic Committee leadership has decided to abandon Colleen Mahr in her run for Chair of the Union County Democratic Committee.

Mahr, who as Mayor of Fanwood for 15 years has worked closely with Scotch Plains ...

We Need More Women Like Colleen Mahr in Municipal, County and State Government

Dear Editor:

I’m proud to support Colleen Mahr for Chair of the Union County Democratic Committee  (UCDC) and am encouraging my Scotch Plains peers to join me.

I was a first time candidate wanting to make a difference in my hometown of Scotch Plains, when Mayor Mahr of neighboring Fanwood stepped in to help me campaign and win my election to be Councilwoman three years ago.

Democratic Party Would Be Making a Big Mistake by Not Recognizing Colleen Mahr's Talents

Dear Editor:

Mayor Colleen Mahr has been a valuable friend to the Township of Cranford. Whether it’s offering advice and assistance during devastating flood cleanup, supporting the Mayor's Council on the Rahway River, or her insight and assistance in meeting our affordable housing obligations, Mayor Mahr is always there for Cranford.

Colleen’s fairness and integrity is ...

Chatham Borough Police Chief Crosson has Retired; Captain Gibbons is Acting Commander

February 12, 2018

CHATHAM, NJ - Phil Crosson Jr., who has been a member of the Chatham Borough Police Department since 1992, retired from his position as the police chief on Feb. 1.

"It came on pretty quickly," Crosson said when reached by phone on Sunday. "I was on vacation for six weeks and I bought a business. I came back for one day and retired."

According to Crosson, ...

‘Reefer Madness’ Comes to Chatham Borough Council; Cannabis Advocates Make Pitch for Chatham Marijuana Shop

February 14, 2018

CHATHAM, NJ - A group of pro-cannabis activists came to the Borough of Chatham Council meeting on Monday night and used the public commentary portion of the meeting to ask the council to support a marijuana dispensary in town.

The advocates, who say they have attended more than 80 town meetings to inform about the benefits of medical cannabis, mentioned the 1936 movie "Reefer ...

Upcoming Events

Sun, February 25

Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary, Bernardsville

NJ Audubon: Volunteer Art Show!

Arts & Entertainment Green

Carousel_image_2e2e4830042112095f66_94f09724857a937db1ac_d6404e0a-7afd-4279-b56f-19b0f9b2138c

Sun, February 25, 10:00 AM

Camp Riverbend, Warren

Camp Riverbend Open House

Arts & Entertainment

Carousel_image_8e821e02ba44390d688c_olympics_oh_feb_2018

Sun, February 25, 10:00 AM

Camp Riverbend, Warren

Camp Riverbend "Wacky Winter Olympics" Open House

Arts & Entertainment Other

Sun, February 25, 3:00 PM

Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church, Plainfield

“Showcase for Exceptional Young Artists” Features ...

Arts & Entertainment

Sun, February 25, 3:00 PM

DeCorso Community Center, New Providence

CSA's 5th Annual Pasta Dinner & Basket Raffle

Food & Drink Giving Back

Sun, February 25, 3:00 PM

New Providence Memorial Library, New Providence

Hotter than a Pepper Sprout: America's Music

Arts & Entertainment

I've Always Wanted to be a Doctor...Or an English Teacher

Think about the impossibility of the task we lay in front of high school students.  In addition to getting good grades, filling up a resume, finding the right colleges and writing countless admissions essays they also need to decide on their life’s passion at 17 years old...or do they?

As a college admissions representative the first question most students would ask me was whether ...

Now That The Dust Has Settled…Smart Tax Moves In 2018

Now that the dust has settled, here are some smart tax moves to lower your taxes and/or avoid higher taxes/penalties in 2018. These steps may be especially helpful if you live in high property and high income tax states (e.g. New Jersey, New York, California) since state and local tax deductions are capped.  Unfortunately all these changes mean you’ll need more time and energy to ...