WASHINGTON—The Republican Study Committee, a group of more than 150 House Republicans, has introduced its budget resolution for fiscal year 2019, which includes a proposal that would require states to restrict Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program purchases to healthy foods. The Physicians Committee—a nonprofit with 12,000 doctor members—is urging the Republican Study Committee to incorporate the Healthy Staples plan into its budget resolution.
“More than 150 members of Congress are essentially recommending that SNAP incorporate the Physicians Committee’s Healthy Staples plan to provide participants more fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes,” says Physicians Committee president Neal Barnard, M.D., F.A.C.C. “We applaud Republican Study Committee members and Republican Study Committee Chairman Rep. Mark Walker for including this critical nonpartisan reform in their budget resolution.”
Forty-four percent of adult SNAP participants are obese, versus 32 percent for nonparticipants at the same income level nonparticipants. They also have an increased risk of death from heart disease and diabetes, compared to SNAP-eligible nonparticipants.
Dr. Barnard detailed Healthy Staples in “A Proposal for Improvements in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program” published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Healthy Staples 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 more than twice the fiber, iron, vitamin E, and folate; almost twice the potassium, calcium, and magnesium; almost 40 percent more vitamin D; and more than five times more beta-carotene 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, which is based on the use of foods packages that include foods deemed to provide good nutrition. When WIC began promoting more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, childhood obesity declined for participants, according to a recent study in JAMA Pediatrics. Children make up nearly half of SNAP participants.
Healthy Staples would also be a boon to retailers by curtailing the economic rationale for stocking less nutritious foods and instead reimbursing them for stocking foods that help keep their communities healthy.
Earlier this year, the American Medical Association also asked the USDA to incentivize healthful foods and discourage or eliminate unhealthful foods.
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.