June 29, 2020
CHICAGO – Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 37 million people in the United States were food insecure. Now, an additional 17 million people may face food insecurity this year.
As the national emergency continues to magnify avoidable differences in health outcomes, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the American Medical Association jointly call on Congress to address basic needs of those most vulnerable and inequitably affected by the pandemic.
In particular, the Academy and AMA urge Congress to support efforts to strengthen and improve the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, the country's most important food safety net program.
"Minority groups are being hospitalized and dying from the virus at much higher rates than white people," said Academy President Linda T. Farr, RDN, CSOWM, LD, FAND.
"Food insecurity is a risk factor for negative psychological and health outcomes and it increases the risk and severity of diet-related diseases." Farr said. "The extraordinary financial burdens of COVID-19 further compound all of these problems."
The Academy and AMA note that marginalized and minoritized populations already were far more likely to experience food insecurity – a lack of access to sufficient quantities of affordable, nutritious food. Many diet-related chronic conditions, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and some cancers, share with COVID-19 many of the same socially determining factors that impact the health of communities. Marginalized and minoritized populations have long faced chronic disease health disparities due to socioeconomic inequalities and reduced access to health care, healthful foods and safe places to be active.
"Investment in SNAP has been shown to reduce food insecurity, health care utilization and costs, while improving health outcomes" said AMA President Susan R. Bailey, M.D. "On average, adults participating in SNAP incur a 25% reduction in health care costs compared to their non-participating counterparts over a 12-month period; an increase in SNAP will further these health care savings. Increasing SNAP funding and the benefits to families would ensure more Americans have access to healthful foods and address health inequities. In addition, this would also provide funding that is returned immediately into the economy in support of local businesses and agriculture."
The Academy and AMA urge the Senate to quickly pass the next stimulus spending bill. Americans need help now keeping food on the table and Congress should act now to increase the investment in SNAP.
Representing more than 100,000 credentialed nutrition and dietetics practitioners, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is the world's largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. The Academy is committed to improving the nation's health and advancing the profession of dietetics through research, education and advocacy. Visit the Academy at eatright.org.
The American Medical Association is the physicians' powerful ally in patient care. As the only medical association that convenes 190+ state and specialty medical societies and other critical stakeholders, the AMA represents physicians with a unified voice to all key players in health care. The AMA leverages its strength by removing the obstacles that interfere with patient care, leading the charge to prevent chronic disease and confront public health crises and, driving the future of medicine to tackle the biggest challenges in health care.