MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak is among 17 other big city mayors, including those of New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, reviving a push prohibiting the use of food stamps to buy pop and other sugary drinks.

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Their request was included in a letter sent to congressional leaders Tuesday.

Soda pop is being unfairly targeted, at least that’s the opinion of Tim Wilkins. He is the president of the Minnesota Beverage Association in St. Paul.

“A calorie is a calorie, whether it’s food or in liquid form, in fact most of the calories we ingest is through the food we eat, the vast majority,” said Wilkins.

Wilkins said the politicians should focus changes elsewhere, like increasing playtime at schools and encouraging parents to take a more active role in their kids’ lives.

“The institute of medicine advocates at least 60 minutes of physical education a day. These days we’ve practically done away with PE in the public schools. The kids are not active. Parents too need to chase them outside instead of letting them sit in front of the TV or computer all day,” he said.

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Finally, Wilkins said prohibiting the use of food stamps to buy carbonated drinks is kicking the down and out while they are already down.

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“Americans don’t want the government looking over their shoulders or putting things in their grocery cart. That’s the bottom line, and food stamp recipients have dietary requirements and favorites just as non-food stamp recipients,” Wilkins said.

Meanwhile, Rybak is irked that media attention is focused on restricting sugary soft drinks for food stamp recipients.

“That’s not the point of what we are doing. The point of what we are doing is in America and in Minneapolis today, there are kids that are hungry and we need to make sure that we stand up for them,” Rybak said.

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Wilkins said if the mayors get what they want, it won’t only hurt their industry but the consumer as well. He said the Minnesota Beverage Association has spear-headed the drive to remove soda pop machines from schools and suggest healthy alternatives for young people. He also pointed out that the industry voluntarily lists the calorie count of their beverages right on the front of the label.