WASHINGTON—The Physicians Committee—a nonprofit of 12,000 doctors—commends Congressman Tom McClintock of California for introducing an amendment to the House farm bill that would align the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program with the Women, Infants and Children program, or WIC, which promotes food packages that include foods such as fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes that are deemed to provide good nutrition. The House farm bill is expected to be voted on this week.
Rep. McClintock is a member of the Republican Study Committee, a group of more than 150 House Republicans, which recently proposed requiring states to focus SNAP purchases on healthy foods. A new Physicians Committee poll finds that 80 percent of respondents said that SNAP should focus the program on fruits, vegetables, beans, and grains instead of soda, chips, meat, cheese, and energy drinks.
“Congressman Tom McClintock’s plan to align SNAP with WIC is a common-sense approach that the American Medical Association has also proposed to help SNAP participants stay healthy,” says Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., director of nutrition education for the Physicians Committee. “Promotion of fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes has helped to cut childhood obesity rates among WIC participants and could do the same for the 44 percent of SNAP participants who are children.”
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.
Adult 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.
Rep. McClintock’s amendment brings the House farm bill a step closer to the Physicians Committee’s Healthy Staples plan, which Levin and Physicians Committee president Neal Barnard, M.D., outlined 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.
Another amendment to the House farm bill, introduced by Alabama Congressman Mike Rogers, would allow SNAP participants to purchase a multivitamin with their SNAP benefits.
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.