Primer on US Food Assistance - Food and Nutrition Policy and Public Health

Monday, June 10, 2019
Kelly Brownell
Primer on US Food Assistance Food and Nutrition Policy and Public Health

Years of progress on diet and nutrition are threatened by attempts to cut back and weaken the SNAP program, to undermine nutrition standards for school meals, and to reverse environmental protection covered by the Farm Bill. Voices must be heard to protect these programs in order to have any hope that the nation can feed its people and do so with good sense and the protection of the environment in mind.

Persistent threats to funding of food assistance programs make it difficult to address the key issues—namely, how these programs can best reduce poverty, improve nutrition, and protect public health. If battles over funding would cease and benefits were extended to all in need, then attention could focus on maximizing reach and effect. For instance, the percentage of individuals eligible for SNAP who are actually enrolled varies widely across states, from a low of 56% to a high approaching 100% (https://fns-prod.azureedge.net/sites/default/files/ops/Reaching2016.pdf). Improving low enrollment rates would provide significant benefit at little cost to the states.

“Government food policies affect the health and hence the health and well-being of vast numbers of people, and they can and must be strengthened in import ways,” Kelly Brownell, director, World Food Policy Center, Duke University.

Read the full commentary in the American Journal of Public Health