Doctors Urge Lawmakers to Support Healthy Incentives for Food Stamp Participants

The Physicians Committee
NEWS RELEASE July 19, 2018
Doctors Urge Lawmakers to Support Healthy Incentives for Food Stamp Participants
Billboards and Bus Shelter Ads Target Offices of U.S. Reps. Conaway, Evans, and Thompson and U.S. Sen. Casey

WASHINGTON—Prominent billboards and other advertisements are posted near the offices of Rep. Mike Conaway, Sen. Bob Casey, and other key lawmakers who could shape the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. The billboards are sponsored by the Physicians Committee, a nonprofit of 12,000 doctors, including 479 in Pennsylvania and 563 in Texas.

Congress is currently in the final stages of crafting the farm bill, which authorizes the SNAP program. Controversial work requirements may be included in the new farm bill, but a plan to improve the nutrition of SNAP participants is needed. The SNAP Healthy Incentives Act, H.R. 4855, provides a higher benefit for SNAP participants to purchase fruits and vegetables—refunding 30 cents for every dollar they spend on fruits and veggies. The Physicians Committee is asking lawmakers to incorporate the SNAP Healthy Incentives Act into the final farm bill or enact it as stand-alone legislation. H.R. 4855 was introduced by Rep. Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania.

“Food Stamp participants are hit hard by diet-related diseases like diabetes—more so than their income-eligible peers,” says Susan Levin M.S., R.D., director of nutrition education for the Physicians Committee. “A plant-based diet with plenty of fruits, veggies, beans, and whole grains can prevent or reverse diabetes, heart disease,

high blood pressure, and obesity. That’s why enabling economically disadvantaged people to buy more fruits and vegetables is so important.”

Changes in the SNAP program are needed because 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.

According to a recent poll, 82 percent of respondents in the mid-Atlantic region, which includes Pennsylvania, support proposed legislation that would give SNAP participants a higher benefit for purchases of fruits and vegetables.

Billboard and Bus Shelter Ad Details:

Large bus shelter advertisements are posted June 26 to about July 22, targeting the Pittsburgh office of U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), ranking member of the Senate Subcommittee on Nutrition. The bus shelter ads are very close to Sen. Casey’s Pittsburgh office, and they directly address the senator, “Senator Casey: introduce a companion bill to H.R. 4855 The SNAP Healthy Incentives Act,!” Visible to pedestrians, motorists, and bus passengers, the ads are 5 feet tall and 3 feet wide. One ad is on Fourth Avenue near Grant Street and the ad is 138 feet from Sen. Casey’s office. The other bus shelter ad is on Grant Street near First Avenue and it is 478 feet from Sen. Casey’s office.

 A digital billboard went live on July 10 one half mile from the Midland, Texas, office of Rep. Mike Conaway, chair of the House Committee on Agriculture, and an illuminated, static billboard was installed July 12 in Midland, remaining until about  Aug. 5. The static billboard is 10 feet high and 22 feet wide, and it is located at 1503 Rankin Highway 4B in Midland, and the digital billboard’s location is 2405 North Big Spring St. The Physicians Committee ad campaign targeting lawmakers kicked off June 21 with advertisements that appeared in Rep. Conaway’s hometown newspaper, the Midland Reporter-Telegram and in Roll Call, a newspaper in Washington, D.C.

A prominent billboard is posted July 5 to about July 29 less than one mile from the Philadelphia office of Rep. Dwight Evans, who is a member of the House Subcommittee on Nutrition. The billboard directly addresses the congressman, “Congressman Evans: Support H.R. 4855!” The billboard is located on Limekiln Pike 25 feet South of Haines Street, facing North. It is 10 feet high and 22 feet wide. 

A billboard is posted June 25 to about July 22 less than one mile from the Titusville office of U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.), chair of the House Subcommittee on Nutrition. The billboard is addressed directly to the Congressman, “Congressman Thompson: Support H.R. 4855,!” The billboard is located on Route 8 South of Dutch Hill Road, facing South, to get the attention of motorists as they head north towards Rep. Thompson’s district office in Titusville, Pa. The billboard is 10 feet high and 22 feet long.

The American Medical Association recently passed a resolution requesting that “the federal government support SNAP initiatives to (a) incentivize healthful foods and disincentivize or eliminate unhealthful foods and (b) harmonize SNAP food offerings with those of WIC.”

Ms. Levin and Physicians Committee president Neal Barnard, M.D., detailed the Healthy Staples plan for SNAP in “A Proposal for Improvements in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program,” published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine

The Physicians Committee’s Healthy Staples plan is inspired by the USDA’s Women, Infants and Children program, or WIC, which is based on 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.

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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.

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