Expand and Reform: SNAP should focus on children’s nutrition

September 30, 2013

Saturday’s editorial, “SNAP sustains area families” shows how SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program) can be win-win-win.

Good for recipients, local farmers, and the public who benefit from better overall health, especially in young children. And, it is proof positive that Republican efforts to gut SNAP are misguided.

At the same time, buried beneath the Republican negative rhetoric, is an idea that makes real sense.  Recently, Rep. Phil Roe, (R-Tenn.) proposed legislation requiring recipients using federal food stamps to buy only healthful food. Currently, SNAP allows purchases of what I consider to be “junk food:”  sugary drinks, empty calorie snacks, high fat and high sodium processed foods — all of which lead to diabetes, childhood and adult obesity, and a myriad of other health risks.

Roe’s plan is straight forward:  SNAP would meet the same guidelines the Women, Infants and Children program already has in place. WIC guidelines are strict, made up of several different standards for products like breakfast cereal, milk, vegetables, peanut butter and other foods.

A very high percentage of SNAP recipients are school age children. Just as we have overhauled the school lunch program, we need to do our best to ensure that children have the most nutritious diet possible. The research overwhelming shows that healthy childhood eating corresponds with more positive engagement in school.

Alas, Roe’s proposal is unlikely to pass.  So far, the “junk food” lobby has consistently and successfully blocked initiatives like Roe’s. But we can do something.  Tell your Congressman–Democrat or Republican–to support The Healthy Food Choices Act, H.R. 3073.

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