Academy Letter to House Agriculture Committee Outlining Concerns on Farm Bill

April 16, 2018

The Honorable Michael Conaway
Chairman
Committee on Agriculture
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Collin Peterson
Ranking Member
Committee on Agriculture
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairman Conaway and Ranking Member Peterson:

On behalf of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the nation's largest organization of food and nutrition professionals, I write to express my deep concerns with the recently released draft of the farm bill, H.R. 2, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Grant Program and the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program are nutrition education programs that empower people to make lasting, healthy choices. The behavior changes lead to healthier lifestyles and improved quality of life, decreased chronic disease and their associated costs, and improved food security status. SNAP-Ed helps to support SNAP's role in addressing food insecurity and improving nutrition. Nutrition education teaches people how to stretch their limited food dollars further and continues to benefit people after their participation in the program has ended. Nutrition education programs like SNAP-Ed and EFNEP are extremely cost-effective. It is estimated that every $1 spent on nutrition education saves $10 in future health care costs.

Therefore, the Academy is deeply concerned with the proposal to repeal EFNEP and make major changes to SNAP-Ed. The bill does not ensure that current implementing entities, which have proven to be successful and trusted entities in the given communities they serve, will still be able to participate and deliver these services. The proposed changes could cause disruptions, impact program outcomes and, ultimately, families will lose out on this educational opportunity.

SNAP serves as our nation's largest and most far reaching food assistance program. SNAP helps one in eight Americans put food on the table and keeps more than 8 million people out of poverty, including nearly 4 million children. SNAP is highly effective in preventing food insecurity and is linked with improved health and lower health care costs. SNAP is especially beneficial for pregnant mothers, reducing the likelihood that a child will be born with low birth weight by between 5 and 23 percent. Children participating in SNAP are less likely to have nutritional deficiencies, and more likely to thrive and have better academic outcomes. Therefore, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is deeply concerned that the farm bill under consideration makes changes to SNAP that could result in people in need of support losing critical food assistance. We are also concerned that states would lose the flexibility to link their social service programs and may result in students losing access to free school meals. Instead, we urge you to build on SNAP's strengths and the programs that shore up its success.

Additionally, the bill would open up the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program to all forms of fruits and vegetables including canned, dried, frozen and pureed undermining the integrity of the program. FFVP has shown to help children participating in the program increase consumption of fruits and vegetables by up to 15 percent. For many children, this program exposes them to a much larger selection of fresh fruits and vegetables and serves as a good educational opportunity.

I thank you for recognizing the importance of nutrition programs like the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Program and the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, and urge to provide similar support for the other critical nutrition programs in the farm bill. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics looks forward to working with you to advance a farm bill that protects and strengthens nutrition programs for vulnerable, low-income families.

Sincerely,

Donna S. Martin, EdS, RDN, LD, SNS, FAND
President, 2017-2018

cc: House Committee on Agriculture