CongressThe final version of the farm bill awaiting action in Congress includes policy improvements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, but it also cuts $8.6 billion over 10 years from the program, according to the American Public Health Association (APHA). Under the measure, which has been debated by Congress for more than two years, SNAP and SNAP nutrition education provide millions of seniors, children and families with food assistance and nutrition education to improve access to healthy food and food security.

Disappointed in cuts

“This farm bill is a mixed bag,” said Georges Benjamin, MD, executive director of the American Public Health Association (APHA). “I welcome the bill’s improvements including full funding of SNAP-Ed, which helps families otherwise at risk for the many chronic health concerns that result from poor nutrition to stretch their food dollars and make healthy choices. I am also pleased about the rejection of the deeper cuts and harmful policy changes to SNAP that were included in the House-passed bill. But we are disappointed by the nearly $9 billion in cuts to SNAP benefits outlined in the measure that mean that many Americans in need will see their benefits reduced.”   

APHA supports several additional important improvements included in the bill that would:

• require retailers who participate in SNAP to keep stores stocked with nutritious meal options, including perishable and non-perishable foods in the categories of fruits, vegetables, grains and meat;
• increase funding for the Community Food Projects Competitive Grant program that assists in the development of efforts to improve nutrition education and nutrition resources for low-income communities; and
• provide increased funds for emergency food assistance to our nation’s food banks.
• authorize the Healthy Food Financing Initiative

The Senate is currently the debating the measure and may vote on it as early as Tuesday. The House of Representatives passed the bill last week by a vote of 251 to 166. In addition to cuts to food stamps, the bill includes income caps on farm subsidies and a price support program for dairy farmers. It is expected to save about $16.6 billion over the next 10 years.