There’s a tweet that has gone viral by Calley Means, who now owns a company called True Medicine Care, which enables patients to use food stamps to buy healthy food. In the Twitter thread, he accused the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People of essentially taking a “bribe” from soda giant Coca-Cola to oppose a “sugar tax” being placed on sugary drinks. If sodas remained untaxed, it would ensure that sodas coils be purchased with food stamps.
Retailers cannot charge sales tax on purchases made with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, also known as food stamps.
It is a common misconception that Black Americans are the highest recipients of food stamps, but whites represent about 37 percent of SNAP recipients and African-American people about 26 percent.
Black people, however, do have the highest consumption of daily sugary drink consumption at 59 percent, compared to 33 percent for whites, found researchers at the UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. Researchers surveyed 13,000 middle school students between 2012 and 2017 about their consumption of regular soda, fruit drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, and flavored waters and teas. Obesity is a major health concern for Black Americans. African-American women have the highest rates of obesity or being overweight compared to other groups in the U.S.
Means called out Coca-Cola and the NAACP in a series of tweets.
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“Early in my career, I consulted for Coke to ensure sugar taxes failed and soda was included in food stamp funding,” Means claimed.
“I say Coke’s policies are evil because I saw inside the room. The first step in playbook was paying the NAACP + other civil rights groups to call opponents racist,” said Means, who later claimed his Twitter Blue access and his account is now under review, suggesting that this was due to Coca-Cola being a major advertiser for Twitter.
On his personal website, Means describes his company True Medicine, founded in 2022, as being “built around the idea that food (and lifestyle habits like exercise and sleep) is medicine. The company’s goal is to make tax-advantaged spending on healthy food and exercise seamlessly.” Prior to this, he claims to have been a consultant for Coca-Cola.
A sugary drink tax, soda tax, or sweetened beverage tax is a tax or surcharge designed to reduce the consumption of sweetened beverages. Drinks covered under a soda tax often include carbonated soft drinks, sports drinks, and energy drinks.
Some claim such a tax is regressive since consumers on lower incomes will be more negatively impacted by higher prices than consumers on higher incomes.
During President Barack Obama’s administration, in 2009, he proposed a federal excise tax on sugary drinks but the American Beverage Association, Pepsi, and Coca-Cola spent almost $40 million to defeat the proposal.
“Coke gave millions to the NAACP and the Hispanic Federation – both directly and through front groups like the American Beverage Association. This picked up in 2011-2013 – when the Farm Bill and soda taxes were under consideration,” tweeted Means.
Both the NAACP and the Hispanic Federation “received grants from Coca-Cola, with the national NAACP receiving at least $2.1 million from the soda giant since 1986, including $100,000 as recently as December. The Hispanic Federation also lists Coke as a donor, and in February 2012 its president, Lillian Rodriguez Lopez, left the nonprofit group to become director of Latin affairs at the company,” Nutrition Insight reported, as per The Post Millennial.
According to Means, after receiving donations from Coca-Cola, the NAACP took a stance that a sugar tax would be racist as it would disproportionately affect Black people.
“The conversations inside these rooms was depressingly transactional: ‘We (Coke) will give you money. You need to paint opponents of us as racist,'” tweeted Means.
This seemed to pay out in New York City when in 2013, the NAACP spoke out against a large-soda ban being proposed by then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg, The Los Angeles Times reported.
Bloomberg wanted to ban the sale of sugar-sweetened soft drinks larger than 16 ounces.
The American Beverage Assn. and other trade groups filed a lawsuit to block the city’s move, and the lawsuit had the backing of the New York State branch of the NAACP and the Hispanic Federation. This move seemed to baffle Bloomberg.
“How can they look themselves in a mirror knowing they are hurting deliberately the life expectancy and the quality of life for the people that they’re supposed to serve?” Bloomberg said.
Photo by Rubenstein Rebello: https://www.pexels.com/photo/selective-focus-photo-of-a-man-s-hand-holding-a-soda-can-7437271/