In response to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s new 2018 Farm Bill & Legislative Principles, the nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is promoting its “Healthy Staples Plan,” which the organization calls the “real pathway to well-being” for participants of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
“If we really want to put SNAP participants—who are disproportionally affected by obesity, heart disease and diabetes—on the path to well-being, healthful foods are the solution,” says Physicians Committee Director of Nutrition education Susan Levin, M.S., R.D. “The USDA should stop helping the junk food industry get rich through SNAP and instead enrich the health of SNAP participants with disease-fighting Healthy Staples.”
Forty-four percent of adult SNAP participants are obese, versus 33 percent of nonparticipants at the same income level as participants. They also have an increased risk of death from heart disease and diabetes, compared to SNAP-eligible nonparticipants.
Levin and Physicians Committee president Neal Barnard, M.D., detail the Healthy Staples program in “A Proposal for Improvements in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program” published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Healthy Staples is inspired by the USDA’s Women, Infants and Children program, or WIC, which is based on the use of food packages that include foods deemed to provide good nutrition. When WIC began promoting more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, childhood obesity declined for participants, according to a new study in JAMA Pediatrics.
SNAP participants choosing solely from Healthy Staples would likely get more than twice the fiber, iron, vitamin E and folate; almost twice the potassium, calcium and magnesium; almost 40 percent more vitamin D; and more than five times more beta-carotene than those following a typical American diet. A Healthy Staples participant also would consume 65 percent less fat and 85 percent less saturated fat, and the excess of 250 milligrams of cholesterol consumed daily would be reduced to essentially zero.
Healthy Staples also would be a boon to retailers, says the Physicians Committee, by curtailing the economic rationale for stocking less nutritious foods and instead reimbursing them for stocking foods that help keep their communities healthy.
Earlier this year, the American Medical Association also asked the USDA to incentivize healthful foods and discourage or eliminate unhealthful foods.
Each month, SNAP provides nutrition assistance to 44 million low-income individuals in 21.8 million U.S. households. Two-thirds of participants are children, elderly or adults with disabilities.
Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research and medical training.