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January 2019

Antihunger Groups Are Blocking Nutrition Progress in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Health Policy and Management, Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 2Department of Population Medicine, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
JAMA Pediatr. 2019;173(1):10-11. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2018.3682

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is by far the largest federal nutrition assistance program in the United States. With an annual budget of $71 billion, the program helps more than 40 million low-income individuals in the United States afford food each month–half of whom are children–with few restrictions on what can be purchased. For years, SNAP has received strong support from national antihunger groups that have played a critical role in maintaining Congressional support. Yet, during the 2018 debate over the Farm Bill (which reauthorizes SNAP every 5 years), these groups have ignored or directly undermined key reforms to improve the diet quality of poor US residents. At a time of increasing threats to the program, enhancing nutritional standards for SNAP, which has the potential to significantly promote health, carries bipartisan public support and should be reconsidered. In addition, reforms to the charitable food sector could further catalyze improvements in diet quality among low-income populations.

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