June 07, 2012

Wyden Amendment Will Encourage SNAP Recipients to Eat Healthier

Washington, D.C.  – Looking to  make it easier for food stamp recipients to eat healthier food, Senator Ron Wyden introduced an amendment to the Farm Bill today that would assist low-income families in meeting federal nutrition guidelines.

The amendment would require the Secretary of Agriculture to carry out five-year pilot projects in five or more states designed to incentivize healthier food purchases of beneficiaries of the $75 billion-a-year Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps.

“It has never been federal policy to tell food stamps recipients what they should or should not be buying, and I see no reason to change that,” Wyden said. “But Congress can and should get better nutritional bang for the taxpayer buck. My SNAP waiver amendment would provide an opportunity for states to test out ways to make the SNAP program a launchpad for healthier eating, rather than simply a conveyer belt for calories.”

The amendment has the support of the Center for Science in the Public Interest and the Oregon Public Health Institute.

"This amendment would, for the first time, help stimulate measures to encourage SNAP recipients to choose healthier diets,” said Michael F. Jacobson, Ph.D., CSPI executive director. “Considering the sky-high rates of obesity, especially among low-income women and children, legislation of this kind is long overdue." 

“SNAP recipients want and deserve good food just like everyone else,” added Nancy Becker of the Oregon Public Health Institute. “Let's make the SNAP program smarter and better by allowing states to innovate new programs within the framework of SNAP.”

Wyden said that under the proposed amendment, a state could encourage SNAP recipients to purchase more fruits and vegetables by partnering with grocery stores or other food sellers to provide coupons enabling SNAP recipients to purchase extra or discounted fruits and vegetables.  There are currently programs that allow SNAP benefits to be exchanged at farmers markets for coupons to purchase $2 worth of produce for $1 of SNAP benefits. The cost of the extra produce is paid for using non-federal dollars.  A state waiver could enable this type of program to be expanded beyond farmers markets.