WASHINGTON (August 16, 2018)—More than two hundred public health and medical experts from across the country sent a letter to the farm bill conference committee members today, urging them to agree to a bill that protects the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, without imposing unnecessary additional work requirements. The conference committee is locked in debate about the future of the bill, negotiating its final iteration before the current version expires on September 30. The farm bill addresses everything from trade to rural development to soil conservation. SNAP is the biggest nutrition program funded by the bill and accounts for three-quarters of its cost.
“Millions of households aren’t able to provide their families the healthy food that helps them and their communities thrive,” said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. “Any changes to SNAP should increase access to affordable and nutritious food, not leave more people hungry.”
The House version of the farm bill overhauls SNAP work requirements, putting millions at risk of losing benefits, while the Senate version, which received bipartisan support, streamlines SNAP operations, reduces barriers for seniors and people with disabilities, and invests in new approaches to job training. The Senate bill also includes key local and regional food programs that would better connect farmers to consumers, supporting local economies while increasing community access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
“Extensive research shows that SNAP is one of the country’s most effective resources to help people in both urban and rural communities put food on the table and alleviate economic hardship that can compound health disparities,” said Sarah Reinhardt, a food systems and health analyst with the Food and Environment Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “The changes proposed in the House farm bill reject evidence of the program’s success and would put healthy diets further out of reach for millions of households. The House bill would worsen the country’s widening resource gap and growing epidemic of diet-related diseases.”
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, SNAP lifted 3.6 million people out of poverty in 2016 and provided many more with temporary assistance between jobs or while in crisis. SNAP allows working families, seniors and people with disabilities to set aside more of their income for other necessities, such as housing, utilities, transportation, and education that has proven to be a key contributor to higher income and lifetime earnings.