This past July, Congress failed to include nutrition and food assistance progamming in the farm bill for the first time in 30 years. The farm bill typically combines all federal food assistance with agriculture programs, allowing the bill to pass with little controversy or debate from Democrats or Republicans. But this year, Congress separated food and nutrition assistance from the rest of the bill, hoping to isolate, reform, and reduce the cost of food assistance programs.
On paper, food programs look expensive – last year alone, our government spent about $78.4 billion on these programs. But this money fills a range of important needs. Money from the farm bill supported not only the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Progam (SNAP), also known as food stamps, but also initiatives like WIC and breakfasts, lunches, and dinners to school-age children. Food assistance money ensures that kids, families, and individuals in our communities all have access to the food they need to live.
More importantly, food assistance programs also serve as one of our country’s best health investments. Eating well keeps children in school, keeps people working, keeps people out of hospitals, and reduces health care costs. Moreover, the healthy snacks and meals served in schools are key in our fight against childhood obesity, ensuring that kids eat nutritious options when they need it most. At Vital Bridges, we see the impact that nutritious food can have every day. Our participants live with HIV and AIDS, and nutritious food strengthens their bodies and allows them to fight off life-threatening illness. Access to good food is vital.
At HHO, we believe that investing in nutritious food is one of our government’s best health interventions. Cutting food assitance means cutting off an essential health service to our most vulnerable populations. But what do you think? How can the government best ensure food access and promote nutrition for children, citizens, and communities?
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Here are some other great insights about the SNAP debate worth reading: Congressional Hunger Games – an article from The Nation; Responses from Hunger Groups – responses to ‘Congressional Hunger Games’ from leading organizations