Do as Simon says: Food stamp data should be open for review - The Packer

Do as Simon says: Food stamp data should be open for review

06/14/2012 01:59:00 PM
Tom Karst

As the largest government-funded agriculture program in the nation, SNAP presents a tremendous opportunity to help tens of millions of Americans be better nourished and to reshape our food system in a positive way. SNAP dollars now represent more than 10 percent of all grocery store purchases.

“Congress should make SNAP more transparent by mandating accurate tracking of SNAP expenditures. Why should only the likes of Walmart, Coca-Cola, and J.P. Morgan know how many billions of our tax dollars are spent each year?” said Ms. Simon.

The report makes these recommendations:

• Congress should not cut SNAP benefits in this time of extreme need
• USDA should disclose retailer redemptions on SNAP; Congress should require that USDA regularly report on these numbers
• Congress should mandate that USDA collect and make public product purchase data; Congress should pass Senator Ron Wyden’s bill, which includes such a requirement
• USDA should collect data on bank fees to assess and evaluate national costs and share this data with the public
• USDA should evaluate state contracts to determine if banks are taking undue advantage of taxpayer funds
• USDA should grant waiver requests from states that want to experiment with making health-oriented improvements to SNAP
• Anti-hunger groups should eliminate or disclose potential conflicts of interest when taking a public position regarding SNAP policy.

Simon, by the way,  is a member of the LinkedIn Fresh Produce Industry Discussion Group (and about 24 other LinkedIn groups). Her LinkedIn profile summary describes her passion:

My research demonstrates why voluntary industry self-regulation is a failure that should (and can) be replaced with enforceable regulations. I also provide advocates practical resources and technical assistance to counter lobbying tactics that undermine health policy efforts.

In a blog post, Simon says that the American Beverage Association and the Snack Food Association have locked arms to oppose health-oriented improvements to SNAP, sometimes in concert with anti-hunger groups. She notes that at least nine states have proposed bills to make health-oriented improvements to SNAP, but none have passed.

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Greg Johnson    
Lenexa, Kan.  |  June, 18, 2012 at 02:58 PM

Simon should read Pamela R's column this week that shows American consumers purchase fresh produce at grocery stores far more often than farmers markets.

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