by Marion Nestle
Jul 20 2012

SNAP to Health: A Fresh Approach to Strengthening SNAP

I’m on the advisory committee for SNAP to Health, a project of the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress, chaired by Dr. Susan Blumenthal.

The Commission released its report on Wednesday in Washington DC at a congressional briefing at which I (and several others) spoke.

The report, Snap to Health, is online at this link.  Its recommendations are here.














The major points made at the briefing:

  • SNAP funding must be preserved; the program is a lifeline for 46 million Americans, half of them children.
  • SNAP, as Rep. Ron Wyden (Dem-OR) put it, “is a conveyor belt for calories.”  It would be better if the calories came from healthier foods.
  • The prevalence of obesity is high among low-income Americans and some evidence suggests that rates may be higher among SNAP participants.
  • Buying healthier foods with SNAP benefits is not easy.  There are problems with access, cost, and relentless marketing of junk foods to low-income groups in general and to EBT users in particular.

As I discussed in my remarks (which are also supposed to be posted on soon), food companies and retailers specifically target marketing efforts to low-income groups and to SNAP participants.  No such efforts market healthier foods to EBT users.

Michele Simon’s recent report documents the extensive lobbying efforts of food companies to make sure that SNAP recipients can use EBT cards to buy their products.

The Snap to Health report is meant to start a national conversation about helping this program to address twenty-first century health challenges.

Let the conversation begin!

  • We talk about the effects of SNAP on obesity, but what about the effects on income mobility. Do you have any research done on how long people stay on food stamps?

    “Welfare is a fishing net, not a safety net.”

  • A lot of the access issues around food deserts and food swamps would disappear if SNAP worked on a white list like WIC. Perhaps it could match the WIC requirements minus the baby food and formula and then white list other foods that are reimburseable. I would pair that with a shelf space requirement of 60 feet.

    This would knock out the ridiculous situation of gas stations accepting SNAP and incentivize makeovers of 10’s of thousands of corner stores in a way that groups like Philly’s Food Trust or the Hartford Food System could only dream of.

  • Raise the income limits for single individuals. Old women on an 800 dollar a month Social Security check get $35.00 a month in food stamps. Make chips at farmers markets a supplement not a deduction from food stamps.

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  • Susan

    It would be refreshing if SNAP could educate and provide services without the negative connotation. It takes a lot of skill to maximize benefits with any community pantry supplies and a low income to get meals that are nutritious, culturally diverse and recognize people needing assistance don’t necessarily want to spend their days creating a neighborhood garden or cooking for hours from scratch. They might just need help holding things together until their situation improves (get a job, child support, get through illness) but it’s rarely presented in that manner.