The Farm Bill

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The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) ensures families can put food on their table and have the nutrition they need to thrive. For families with young children especially, SNAP offers a foundation for health and learning so they can reach their highest potential. 

Right now, Congress is in the process of reauthorizing the Farm Bill, the piece of legislation that governs SNAP.  As part of this reauthorization, Congress can make changes to the program and choose to make it easier or harder for families to have the food they need. 

A current proposal from House Agriculture Chairman Glenn Thompson includes provisions that are estimated to cut $30 billion from SNAP over 10 years. This would happen by limiting the ability of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to update household SNAP benefit allotments, known as the Thrifty Food Plan. Due to a change in the last Farm Bill, the USDA now considers current evidence-based dietary guidelines, food consumption information, and the cost of food in making their determination of benefit allotments. These adjustments are important to ensure the SNAP benefit is based in current science and needs.  

The current proposal put forth in the House would allow the USDA to make only cost-neutral changes to the SNAP benefit. This would block them from increasing the allotment as scientific understanding of dietary needs and food consumption change. It would lead to a severely limited SNAP benefit.   

Chairman Thompson claims this change is not a cut in the SNAP benefit because benefits could still be adjusted for inflation. He also claims the savings from this change will fund other priorities. Any cost “saving”s from the SNAP program are, in fact, a cut in benefits. While those cuts may not affect people today, over time households’ SNAP benefits will not keep up with the real cost of a healthy die  as shown by the $30 billion decrease projected by the Congressional Budget Office for this proposal. 

For more than 25 years, Children’s HealthWatch has documented that receiving SNAP is associated with improved food security and health outcomes.  However, we have also found that the dose of the benefit is too often too low to support optimal health among young children and families. Any changes to the SNAP benefit that would reduce the buying power for families and young children would have adverse impact on their health and well-being.  

Our research has shown that a strong SNAP program does the following: 

Improve child health: Young children in families participating in SNAP are healthier, grow better, and are more likely to develop well emotionally and academically for their age compared to their peers in likely eligible families not participating in the program.  

Improve caregiver health: Children need healthy families to thrive. Adults participating in SNAP have reported better mental health, and SNAP participation has been associated with lower risk of obesity, diabetes, and hypertension among adults who participated in the program during early childhood.  

Increase food security for families and children: Caregivers often try to protect children from hunger by forgoing meals themselves. Compared to families who are likely eligible, but not participating in SNAP, families with young children participating in SNAP are 22 percent more likely to be able to afford enough food for all members. Additionally, they are 33 percent more likely to have enough resources to protect children from having the size of meals cut.  

Alleviate economic hardships: Working in tandem with other programs to preserve family health, SNAP has a positive ripple effect. Families participating in SNAP are 28 percent more likely to be able to pay for medical expenses without foregoing basic necessities like food, rent and utilities. 

Help us advocate for a Farm Bill that supports, not weakens, SNAP.  Below are resources and ways you take action today. 

Resources: 

Nourishing Futures: Strengthening Child Health Through SNAP: Children’s HealthWatch 

Continuing the Thrifty Food Plan Adjustment Is Good for Everyone – Food Research and Action Center 

Chair Thompson’s Plan Would Cut SNAP Benefits and Ignore Scientific Evidence in Thrifty Food Plan Updates – Center on Budget and Policy Priorities 

Take Action: 

Join us in reaching out to members of Congress to urge them to protect SNAP in the Farm Bill. You can use this tool from our friends at the Food Research Action Center to connect with your members today! 

 

 

The post The Farm Bill appeared first on Children's HealthWatch.

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