WASHINGTON—The Senate passed a farm bill today that does little to help Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program participants fight the obesity, heart disease, and diabetes that they disproportionally suffer and die from, says the nonprofit Physicians Committee. The group is urging Congress to work together to incorporate the SNAP Healthy Incentives Act or Healthy Staples plan into the final farm bill before its Sept. 30 deadline.
“Congress has one last chance to do the right thing for the health of food stamp participants by incorporating the Healthy Incentives Act or Healthy Staples plan into the farm bill before Sept. 30,” says Physicians Committee director of nutrition education Susan Levin, M.S., R.D. “Without ensuring that food stamps provide more fruits, vegetables, and other healthful foods, participants will continue to pay the toll with obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.”
According to the USDA, SNAP participants are more likely to be obese than income-eligible nonparticipants. They also have an increased risk of death from heart disease and diabetes, compared to SNAP-eligible nonparticipants. The American Medical Association has asked the USDA to incentivize healthful foods and discourage or eliminate unhealthful foods from SNAP.
The SNAP Healthy Incentives Act, HR 4855, a bill introduced by Pennsylvania Rep. Matt Cartwright, would create financial incentives for people on food stamps to purchase fruits and vegetables. The Physicians Committee recently released a poll that found 78 percent of respondents supported similar legislation.
The poll also found that found 80 percent of respondents agreed that SNAP should focus on fruits, vegetables, beans, and grains instead of soda, chips, meat, cheese, and energy drinks.
The Physicians Committee’s Healthy Staples plan, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, would subsidize participating grocers who supply basic healthful foods: grains, vegetables, beans, fruits, and basic multiple vitamins. SNAP participants choosing solely from Healthy Staples would likely get about double the fiber, iron, and calcium than those following a typical American diet. A Healthy Staples participant would also consume 65 percent less fat and 85 percent less saturated fat, and the excess of 250 milligrams of cholesterol consumed daily would be reduced to essentially zero.
Healthy Staples is inspired by the USDA’s Women, Infants and Children program, or WIC. In 2009, WIC was revised to help participants get more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. That change helped to decrease the purchases of foods high in fat and sodium and increase the sales of fruits and vegetables, according to a study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Childhood obesity also decreased among WIC participants.
To speak to Ms. Levin or another expert, please contact Jeanne Stuart McVey at email@example.com or 202-527-7316.
Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research and medical training.