Small group nutrition education

Despite overall cuts in funding to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, its nutrition education program known as SNAP-Ed, which runs nutrition classes such as this, will receive full funding under the pending reauthorization of the farm bill. Photo courtesy USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service

Votes are expected this week on the farm bill, the omnibus law that sets the nation’s agricultural and food policies, with major implications for federal nutrition programs.

Negotiators on Capitol Hill announced the measure Monday that includes improvements to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, yet cuts its funding by $8.6 billion. SNAP provides food assistance and nutrition benefits to millions of American seniors, children and families in an effort to address hunger and food security.

Improvements to nutrition programs as outlined in the farm bill include:

  • a requirement for retailers who participate in SNAP to keep stores stocked with nutritious meal options, including perishable and non-perishable foods, in the categories of fruits, vegetables, grains and meat;
  • full funding of the SNAP-Ed program, which provides nutrition education to SNAP recipients and other eligible low-income individuals;
  • an increase in funding for the Community Food Projects Competitive Grant program that would assist in the development of efforts to improve nutrition education and nutrition resources for low-income communities;
  • increased funds for emergency food assistance to our nation’s food banks; and
  • authorization of the Healthy Food Financing Initiative

“This farm bill is a mixed bag,” said Georges Benjamin, MD, executive director of APHA in a press release. “I welcome the bill’s improvements… but we are disappointed by the nearly $9 billion in cuts to SNAP benefits outlined in the measure that mean that many Americans in need will see their benefits reduced.”

The farm bill has undergone revisions and has been debated  for more than two years, garnering a letter signed by public health leaders opposing proposed SNAP budget cuts in June 2013 and concerns of delivering nutrition to those in need.  The measure will be voted on today by the House of Representatives. The Senate is expected to consider the bill later this week.