Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Letter to Senate to Reopen Government

January 11, 2019

The Honorable Mitch McConnell
Majority Leader
United States Senate
S-230 U.S. Capitol
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Charles Schumer
Minority Leader
United States Senate
S-221 U.S. Capitol
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Majority Leader McConnell and Leader Schumer:

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the nation's largest organization of food and nutrition professionals, representing more than 100,000 credentialed practitioners, calls on Senate leadership to approve the omnibus appropriations bill passed by the House on January 3, 2019. The bill would provide funding for six agencies, including those crucial to delivering essential food, nutrition and health services and safeguarding the public from food safety concerns.

The partial government shutdown, now in its 21st day, affects approximately 800,000 federal employees who are working without pay or are furloughed. It affects these employees and their families, who are trying to make ends meet without a paycheck this month. The shutdown also has direct ramifications for the capacity of the Department of Agriculture (USDA), Indian Health Service (IHS), Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and many other federal entities to function and carry out crucial programs and services. The shutdown negatively impacts the integrity and effectiveness of government programs by impeding agencies from providing necessary oversight to reduce fraud and improve efficiencies.

  • People supported by federal nutrition programs administered by the USDA are in jeopardy, including 38 million low-income Americans who benefit from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); 22 million students who receive free or reduced-price meals every day through the National School Lunch Program; and the more than half of all infants born in the U.S. to families who rely on the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program for nourishment.
  • The IHS, which provides health care services for American Indians and Alaska Natives, is now strapped for resources. At best, health programs are shortchanging patient services; at worst, facilities across the country are being shuttered.
  • The shutdown has brought to a standstill most food safety inspections carried out by the FDA, including those of foods that are associated with a high risk for foodborne illness such as fish and shellfish, soft cheeses and fresh fruits and vegetables. This is a significant public health safety concern, especially in light of recent foodborne illness outbreaks.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics urges you to take action now: Pass the House omnibus appropriations bill to end the shutdown. You and the previous Senate had unanimously supported this bill by voice vote before the shutdown started. Alternatively, the Senate should – at a minimum – pass appropriations bills for all agencies other than the Department of Homeland Security. Put an end to uncertainty. Re-open the federal government before funding lapses for essential nutrition, health and food safety programs that affect millions of Americans.

Sincerely,

Mary Russell, MS, RDN, LDN, FAND
President, 2018-2019
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics