June 19, 2018
Washington, DC 20510
On behalf of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the nation's largest organization of food and nutrition professionals, I write in support of S. 3042, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018. This legislation would reauthorize and strengthen nutrition programs that promote healthy people, healthful food systems and a strong economy. The Academy urges you to support S. 3042 and reject any amendments that would make harmful changes to the nutrition programs in the farm bill.
While some areas of the nation have been home to remarkable growth and prosperity, one in six Americans lives in an economically distressed community, including rural areas, suburbs and city centers, and households across the nation are struggling to meet their basic needs for nutrition. Despite providing modest benefits, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is highly effective in preventing food insecurity and alleviating poverty, and is linked with improved health and lower health care costs. SNAP helps one in eight Americans put food on the table and keeps more than 8 million people out of poverty. SNAP is especially beneficial for pregnant mothers, reducing the likelihood that a child will be born with low birthweight by between 5 percent 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 is pleased that S. 3042 would protect the integrity of the program, while also making targeted improvements to SNAP for seniors and people with disabilities, and modernizing systems and technology. Additionally, the legislation would expand the 2014 employment and training pilot projects focused on high-quality training and take steps to ensure programs meet state and local workforce needs. Current pilot programs are in the midst of rigorous evaluations and the results are not yet available to inform the 2018 farm bill. However, the proposed legislation would allow additional states to test promising and novel approaches to help establish evidence-based solutions to guide future expansion of the program with the goal of improving participants' path to sustainable employment.
While the Academy acknowledges the current fiscal challenges, we remain committed to calling for a meaningful increase to the benefit level, and at minimum, support requiring a regular evaluation of the Thrifty Food Plan to connect SNAP allotments with the current economic realities of consuming a nutritious and healthful diet.
S. 3042 would also streamline the application process of the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, thereby reducing the burden for states, administering agencies and seniors. CSFP annually serves nearly 700,000 low-income adults age 60 and older with monthly shelf-stable, nutrient rich foods. While CSFP application requirements vary by state, current federal regulation requires recertification of eligible older adults every six to 12 months. S. 3042 would establish a minimum certification period of one year and provide states with the flexibility to further extend the certification period to three years.
S. 3042 affirms the value of the SNAP Education and Obesity Prevention Grant Program and the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program and would further strengthen the programs by encouraging greater coordination between the two. SNAP-Ed and EFNEP are nutrition education programs that empower people to make lasting, healthful choices. Behavior changes by participants in these programs 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. These programs have demonstrated their effectiveness and continue to explore innovation opportunities for delivery, including opportunities to reach rural participants.
The Senate farm bill would reauthorize the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, a critical investment for ensuring a safe, nutritious, affordable and sustainable food supply for the growing world population. S. 3042 would also reauthorize and enhance other nutrition programs, including making a strategic investment in the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Program. FINI's focus on fruits and vegetables allows the program to have the greatest possible impact on SNAP household health, and a strong commitment of resources translates into more nutritious food for families. The bill would also establish training and technical assistance and information and evaluation centers for FINI grantees to achieve greater efficiency and effectiveness.
Additionally, the bill would establish a new pilot program to evaluate the effectiveness of a produce "prescription" program. The program would allow a state, local agency or nonprofit organization to partner with a health care provider to prescribe fresh fruits and vegetables, and provide nutrition education resources, to low-income patients who are at risk for developing or have a diet-related health condition.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recognizes the difficult choices necessary to deliver a bipartisan bill and applauds the leadership required to advance such a bill. We urge your support for S. 3042 and ask that you reject any harmful amendments to nutrition programs.
Mary Russell, MS, RDN, LDN, FAND