, Volume 55, Issue 4, pp 308–317 | Cite as

KEEPING SODA IN SNAP: Understanding the Other Iron Triangle

  • Robert PaarlbergEmail author
  • Dariush Mozaffarian
  • Renata Micha
  • Carolyn Chelius
Feature Article


Participants in SNAP have always been allowed to use their taxpayer-funded benefit to purchase Sugar Sweetened Beverages (SSBs). Despite an acute public health crisis surrounding the consumption of unhealthy products including SSBs, especially among the low-income citizens who also qualify for SNAP benefits, this policy has yet to be changed. Interviews with policy participants in Washington, D.C., reveal that change is being blocked by a culture of “personal responsibility” in America, plus three specific political forces: corporate lobbying primarily by the beverage and food retail industries; a desire by liberals to defend SNAP as income support for the poor even if nutrition outcomes are sub-optimal; and institutional inertia within the Department of Agriculture and the agricultural committees of Congress. In the 2018 farm bill debate, this “iron triangle” of bipartisan resistance to change was strong enough to block even a pilot study of SSB restrictions in SNAP.


SNAP Sugar Beverages Congress USDA Farm bill Nutrition Health 



This research was supported by the NIH, NHLBI (R01 HL130735, PI Micha). The funding agency did not contribute to design or conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis, or interpretation of the data; preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript; or decision to submit the manuscript for publication. The authors declare no actual or potential conflict of interest. The authors thank all of the collaborators and advisory groups in the Food Policy Review and Intervention Cost-Effectiveness (Food-PRICE) project (

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert Paarlberg
    • 1
    Email author
  • Dariush Mozaffarian
    • 2
  • Renata Micha
    • 2
  • Carolyn Chelius
    • 3
  1. 1.Harvard Kennedy School of GovernmentCambridgeUSA
  2. 2.Friedman School of Nutrition Science & PolicyTufts UniversityBostonUSA
  3. 3.Food Literacy Project ManagerHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA

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