Is SNAP-Ed Under Attack?

Is the Farm Bill’s Nutrition Education Program under Attack?

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Since the Farm Bill is up for re-authorization, Congress is currently threatening to cut one of its components. This component is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs’ nutrition education (SNAP-Ed).

SNAP-Ed empowers recipients to purchase healthy foods within a very tight food budget. The program employs hundreds of RDs in all 50 states. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ (AND) Farm Bill Work Group is making slight revisions to the 2012 Farm Bill Recommendation document to highlight the SNAP-Ed program among other aspects of the bill.

The recommendations include talking points related to:

          Empowering consumers

o   Maintain current funding for SNAP Nutrition Education (SNAP Ed), an effective program that empowers participants to change behaviors for healthy eating using knowledge tailored to their lifestyle.

          Provide access to healthy and safe foods

o   Protect and strengthen the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), key programs in our nation’s nutrition safety net.

          Assure a healthy and safe food system

o   Ensure funding for a variety of community-based and regional agriculture initiatives that expand the availability of regionally-grown food, create jobs, and promote economic development.

o   Support farm practices and policies that conserve soil, water, air, habitat and biodiversity, as these are essential to our survival, and help to assure that a next generation of farmers has access to land and the skills and incentives to grow healthy foods.

          Assure sound science for future evidenced-based decision making

o   Maintain funding for the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and the Agricultural Research Service that includes Human Nutrition Research Centers for vital research to drive better nutrition, eliminate hunger, increase food security and healthy food systems and eliminate diet-related health disparities, including obesity and assure the availability of nutrition monitoring, food composition and related data.

o   Maintain funding for the Specialty Crop Block Grants in order to support food safety and nutrition research and a diversity of fruits, vegetables and nuts available to help people achieve the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Farm Bill overview:

The Farm Bill is a critical piece of legislation that determines not only what farmers grow, but what is available in the United States food supply. Farm policies have existed in the U.S. since the establishment of our country. The 1920’s brought about the first big shift in agriculture policies, focusing on direct government intervention to provide income support by increasing crop prices and controlling supplies. Legislation continued to support farmers through direct income payments and crop supply management until 1996. At that time fixed income support payments were removed, making a shift to the modern commodity payments currently in place, and focused on issues surrounding food safety, food assistance and the environment.

The most recent Farm Bill, 2008 Food Conservation and Energy Act, included several key provisions that impacted nutrition.

          – Renamed the “food stamp program” to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), to reflect a modern program, putting healthy foods within reach for people.

          – Authorized a small pilot program, the Healthy Incentives Pilot, to research the effect of incentives in encouraging SNAP participants to purchase healthful foods such as fruits and vegetables.

        –   Created the National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to coordinate agricultural research and Extension programs.

          – Established funding for new programs to support producers transitioning to organic agriculture and to increase research in organic agriculture.

So, now the real question is- what will happen next? Only time will tell….

AND Farm Bill

2012 Farm Bill recommendations

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Food Stamp Challenges Incorporating Politicians and Celebrities

Newark, NJ mayor wants to highlight the challenges of living off government food aid

Morning talk show host Michael Strahan is adding some celebrity to Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s food stamp challenge.

Strahan, who hosts Live with Kelly and Michael, tweeted a picture on Wednesday of the first meal he ate living off the equivalent of what people receive in government assistance for food. Breakfast for the former New York Giants defensive end consisted of an omelet made with three eggs and black beans, with a side of mashed sweet potato.

Booker began his week-long SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) challenge Tuesday and is living off a budget of about $30 per week for groceries. That’s the same as what New Jersey residents receive if they qualify for the program. The Democrat says he’s trying to raise awareness about food security and what he calls the “inequities” of the American food system.

The most recent U.S. Department of Agriculture data says New Jersey residents receive an average of $133.26 a month in what were commonly known as food stamps.

Booker, who is not the first politician to do a food stamp challenge, is using social media tools to share his experiences. In a video about his first day, the mayor holds his dinner (a bowl of salad) and talks about how he didn’t plan well and wasn’t near the food he purchased.

Booker’s decision to do the SNAP challenge is the result of a debate he had on Twitter about the role of government in supporting nutrition programs. His aim: raising awareness of food security and nutrition issues, especially in low-income urban areas, which are often “food deserts” or areas where there is low access to affordable nutritious food.

Spending for SNAP jumped to $71.8 billion in 2011, up from $30.4 billion in 2007 because more people became eligible for the program due to high unemployment and a weak US economy.

Data for the 2011 fiscal year show the program provided benefits to 44.7 million people in an average month, up from 25.8 million people in 2007. The federal government spent $75.7 billion for the program – $71.8 billion went to benefits and the rest covered administrative costs. Households received a monthly average of $284, and individuals received $134.

But now, Cory Booker is getting hungry.

True to form, Booker is tweeting about his experience and maintaining a blog as well!

After a few days of eating mostly vegetable-based foods, Booker is famished. “The constrained food options I have for this one short week highlight for me (with the hunger pains I felt today between small meals) what many hardworking families have to deal with week after week,” he wrote on his blog.

“Not being able to stop and drop a few dollars for a Venti coffee or Diet Mountain Dew is really raising my consciousness about the food choices I often take for granted,” Booker observed.

A lesson from Booker’s Food Stamp Challenge Diet thus far:

1. People who depend on food stamps don’t have it as easy as conservatives think
To hear hardline conservatives tell it, you’d think people accept food stamps to “‘take advantage’ and live high off the hog,” says Sasha Brown-Worsham at The Stir. Booker’s admirable decision to tighten his belt for a week will expose the lie in that kind of thinking by demonstrating that “living on a ‘food stamp budget’ is not exactly luxurious.” It’s only $28 a week! Critics “ought to open their heart a little and stop whining. In a country as rich as ours, NO ONE should be hungry.”

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2012/12/05/michael-strahan-food-stamps-cory-booker/1749269/

http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/2012/1204/Why-is-Newark-Mayor-Cory-Booker-living-on-food-stamps

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/06/cory-booker-food-stamp-challenge_n_2250692.html

http://theweek.com/article/index/237309/cory-bookers-food-stamp-challenge-3-lessons

A grocery receipt that the Newark Mayor posted recently

A grocery receipt that the Newark Mayor posted recently

A picture of what the mayor bought from his grocery store trip

A picture of what the mayor bought from his grocery store trip