DC Nutrition NPC
June 22, 2017
As a secretive Senate health care bill approaches its deadline, food and nutrition advocates speak out in Washington this week.
While lawmakers battle over healthcare, farming and food security representatives are celebrating the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs, commonly called SNAP or food stamps.
“Some government programs work, and others don’t work as well. SNAP is amazing, SNAP is the quintessential example of a successful government program. It sets out to relieve food insecurity, and it does so,” says Craig Gundersen, University of Illinois professor.
Funding programs like SNAP through the Farm Bill has been a strategy for gaining urban support for a piece of rural legislation, but advocates say that SNAP isn’t just an urban program.
“SNAP in particular is important to that nutritional stability in our rural communities. Rural areas are disproportionately likely to have persistent high childhood poverty, 81 percent of counties with persistent childhood poverty are rural,” explains Karen Sieber, Harvesters Food Bank Public Policy adviser.
Advocates discussed SNAP benefits that get food to hungry families, but it’s also a program that provides more nutritious food options through incentives and prescriptions. Speakers argued that SNAP creates value for the general public, even for those who don’t directly receive benefits.
“One of the best forms of medicine we have in this country is SNAP. And by giving people SNAP, you reduce their probability of food insecurity and then, by reducing their probability of food insecurity, you drive down healthcare costs in the United States,” stated Skye Cornell, Chief Programs Officer, Wholesome Wave.
While Republican senators across town race to pass a healthcare bill before the July 4th recess, advocates are arguing that investing in SNAP could decrease future healthcare costs. They hope their work will encourage greater support for these and other programs in the 2018 Farm Bill. The White House’s proposed budget included a 25 percent cut to federal SNAP programs, though legislators in both the House and Senate have said that they would not support this reduction.