Make America’s Food Stamps Healthy.
No, it is not as catchy as “Make America Great Again” but a new poll by the vegan diet-promoting Physicians Committee found public support for “focusing on healthful foods” in the SNAP program.
Congress is engaged in the farm bill debate and GOP provisions to up SNAP work requirements are some of the friction points that could stall progress. Sweeping changes to what foods are eligible for purchase in SNAP seems flatly impossible, but the topic makes for interesting discussion.
The poll, according to a news release, finds 80% agree that SNAP should emphasize foods such as vegetables, fruits, beans, and grains that prevent diabetes and other diet-related diseases. The poll of U.S. adults was completed by Lincoln Park Strategies, according to the release.
The group said 80% of those polled support a proposal to improve the health of SNAP participants by focusing on healthful dietary staples like fruits, vegetables, beans, and grains “instead” of soda, chips, meat, cheese, and energy drinks.
Proposed legislation that would give SNAP participants a higher benefit for purchases of fruits and vegetables gets support from 78% of respondents, according to the poll.
Earlier this year, U.S. Representative Matt Cartwright, D-Pa., introduced the SNAP Healthy Incentives Act. That legislation would create financial incentives for people on food stamps to purchase fruits and vegetables.
Likewise, the Physicians Committee noted that 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.”
The Physicians Committee believes in both the carrot and the stick. On the group’s website, there is a story about the Republican Study Committee. That 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.
“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,” Physicians Committee president Neal Barnard said in the release. “We applaud Republican Study Committee members and Republican Study Committee Chairman Rep. Mark Walker for including this critical nonpartisan reform in their budget resolution.”
Healthy Staples, according to the group, is “inspired” by the USDA’s Women, Infants and Children program, which is based on the use of approved foods packages.
Certainly limiting SNAP benefits to healthy foods alone would play to the strengths of the fresh produce industry, but a safer play and a simpler game plan for industry lobbyists is to push for greater incentives for fruit and vegetable purchases in the SNAP program.