Harris Pens Op-Ed On The Need For Congress To Address SNAP’s Contribution To Poor Health

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Congressman Andy Harris, M.D., Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development,Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies joined Angela Rachidi, a senior fellow and Rowe Scholar in opportunity and mobility studies at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), in penning an op-ed published in The Hillon the need for Congress to address SNAP’s contribution to poor health.

Rep. Harris and Rachidiwrote: “The United States has witnessed historic and escalating rates of obesity among adults in recent decades. As of 2020, official government statistics indicate that obesity inflicts 42 percent of Americans, including one in five children.

Obesity disproportionately affects low-income populations, who often rely on federal programs for assistance. Congress can combat the obesity epidemic by reforming federal programs, especially the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). This involves restricting the purchase of unhealthy foods through SNAP and creating incentives to promote the consumption of fruits and vegetables.

SNAP provides monthly food benefits to low-income households, making it a well-positioned tool to address the obesity epidemic. Approximately 13 percent of the U.S. population receives SNAP in a given month, making it one of the federal government’s largest safety net programs. The program’s stated goal is to “raise the nutrition levels of low-income households,” yet 40 percent of adult SNAP recipients suffer from obesity and almost 45 percent have received a diagnosis of diet-related disease — far higher rates than the general population.

In fact, USDA’s Food & Nutrition Service reports that soft drinks are among the top purchases of SNAP recipients. Last fiscal year, federal expenditures on SNAP topped $119 billion, a 70 percent increase over the past two decades in constant dollars. During the same time that Congress has made unprecedented investments in SNAP, obesity rates have continued to climb, proving SNAP as ineffective in accomplishing its primary objective of enhancing nutrition among participants.

The costs of the obesity epidemic, both economic and personal, are staggering. Obesity causes severe health problems that affect the daily lives of millions of Americans by reducing their mobility, decreasing productivity, and creating stress and mental health challenges. Obesity’s impact extends beyond individual health, though — it is exacerbating our nation’s fiscal challenges by claiming a sizable share of healthcare expenditures, especially Medicare and Medicaid dollars.

If SNAP more effectively addressed nutrition, it could help reduce the prevalence of obesity, which in turn would lower healthcare costs in the U.S. and help address the country’s long-term fiscal challenges.

SNAP is a crucial safety net program that provides nutrition support to low-income households. It should also help them be healthy by prioritizing nutrition. One of us is a member of Congress and the other is a researcher, but we both conclude the same: SNAP must more effectively address the obesity crisis. Not only will nutrition reforms to SNAP improve the health of low-income Americans, but they are also necessary to help address the country’s impending fiscal crisis.”

The full op-ed can be read here.


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Author: Press Release


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