As part of President Obama’s economic stimulus, the federal government has doled out $230 million for communities to combat obesity rather than create jobs or boost the economy. In many cases, the funds are being used to attack American-made products like Coke and Pepsi.

Advertisements undermining soft drinks can be found in cities from coast to coast. New York’s “Pouring on the Pounds” campaign used grotesque pictures and misleading information that even the city’s chief nutritionist called into question. The city received $15.5 million in federal funding for its anti-obesity efforts.

In Philadelphia, the city spent $2.4 million on ads attacking soda. That was enough money to add 52 police officers, 54 firemen, 57 paramedics, 58 teachers or 88 EMTs.

Similar anti-obesity campaigns have popped up in Boston, Los Angeles, Seattle and evenTopeka, KS. In the case of Pima County, home to Tucson, AZ, media partners include taxpayer-supported PBS, the Arizona Public Media and NPR. In Hawaii, the theme is “Don’t Drink Yourself Fat.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has provided stimulus funding to 25 communities for a variety of anti-obesity measures, including advertisements. Several are major U.S. cities, collecting upwards of $15 million. The funding is part of a $230 million initiative called “Communities Putting Prevention to Work.”

The federal government doesn’t mandate how communities use the money to combat obesity, but the CDC does recommend a five-pronged approach that includes advertising, limiting availability of sugary beverages, menu labeling, higher prices and exercise. Information about the grants and guidelines are available online from the CDC.

The 2009 economic stimulus, of course, was sold to Congress as a $787 billion package to revive the economy by creating or saving millions of jobs. And while some of the money for these anti-obesity efforts could arguably create temporary jobs — such as construction of a bike path or walking trail — there’s growing concern about the use of the money for advertisements.

Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-TN), a member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, last week expressed alarm that taxpayer money was being used for such a purpose:

These hard earned taxpayer dollars that were intended to stimulate the economy and create jobs are instead funding scare campaigns against perfectly safe and legal products, and the companies that make them. At a time when our nation faces an unemployment rate of more than 9 percent, I find it outrageous that federal and city agencies would aggressively advertise against American products made by American workers. Not only is this a gross misplacement of spending priorities, it is another example of a ‘government knows best’ mentality that often permeates Washington.

DesJarlais cited an effort called Smart Taxpayers Exposing Waste, an initiative launched on Facebook by the American Beverage Association. It ran the numbers on Philadelphia’s advertising campaign and has documented the cost of anti-obesity measures in other cities.