May 7, 2018
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
On behalf of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the nation's largest organization of food and nutrition professionals, I write in opposition to, H.R. 2, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018. This legislation has the potential to harm the health, nutrition and food security of millions of Americans.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that 1.2 million people, in an average month, would lose access to critical food assistance due to the bill's proposed Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program work requirements. CBO also estimates that 265,000 children would lose access to free school meals, in an average year, as a result of the proposed change to categorical eligibility. Children would then only be eligible for reduced-price or paid meals, while their household simultaneously loses SNAP eligibility. Additionally, CBO estimates that 560,000 households would have their SNAP benefits reduced, by an average of $84 per month, as a result of the proposed change to standard utility allowances.
SNAP is highly effective in preventing food insecurity 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, including nearly 4 million children. SNAP is especially beneficial for pregnant mothers, reducing the likelihood that a child will be born with low birthweight 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 millions of people would lose access or have their benefits reduced. This would contribute to further increasing health inequity in our nation. Instead, we urge you to further strengthen SNAP by providing a meaningful increase to the benefit level and support the nutrition programs that shore up its success.
The SNAP Education and Obesity Prevention Grant Program and the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program are nutrition education programs that empower people to make lasting, healthful choices. The 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. It is estimated that every $1 spent on nutrition education saves $10 in future health care costs. These programs have demonstrated their effectiveness. Therefore, the Academy is deeply concerned with the proposal to make significant changes to these programs and concerned that ultimately families will lose out on this important educational opportunity.
Additionally, H.R. 2 would allow the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program to include canned, dried, frozen and pureed fruits and vegetables undermining the integrity of the program. FFVP has been 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 ask you to oppose H.R. 2, and instead advance a farm bill that builds upon the successes of farm bill nutrition programs. The Academy stands ready to work with you to develop a farm bill that improves health for all, especially those most susceptible to experiencing food insecurity.
Donna S. Martin, EdS, RDN, LD, SNS, FAND