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Eating Well, Living Well: Enhancing Nutritious Food Access

Over the past decade, the Bipartisan Policy Center has issued a series of reports highlighting ways to improve the health of Americans through access to nutritious foods. This year, Congress must reauthorize the farm bill, which supports many of our federal nutrition programs. In advance of that reauthorization, congressional leaders have introduced several bipartisan bills, which echo prior recommendations from BPC and carry the potential to improve the well-being of many Americans.

The SNAP Nutrition Security Act of 2023 (S. 2326/H.R. 4909), a bipartisan, bicameral bill introduced by Sens. Booker (D-NJ) and Rubio (R-FL) and Reps. Gottheimer (D-NJ) and Chavez-DeRemer (R-OR), would amend the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 to prioritize access to nutritious foods for those on SNAP. The legislation calls for improved data collection to identify opportunities that would enhance nutrition measures within the program. BPC supports this bill, recognizing that low-income individuals not only deserve access to more food but also healthier options to prevent the increasing burden of chronic diseases. This was a focus of BPC’s work with the Food and Nutrition Security Task Force. BPC task force co-chair José Andrés, along with other important leaders like Hunger Free America, have also voiced support for this legislation.

In addition, there have been a series of congressional proposals to modernize Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP)—a program strongly supported by BPC’s task force.  Some of those proposals, including S. 2015/H.R. 4149, the OH SNAP, Close the Fruit and Vegetable Gap Act of 2023, led by Sen. Booker (D-NJ) and Rep. Blunt Rochester (D-DE), highlight important policy goals for GusNIP that the task force would support in principle but acknowledge that the current budget constraints may make enactment difficult. As such, other proposals, such as the bipartisan H.R. 4856, the GusNIP Expansion Act of 2023, led by Reps. Crawford (R-AR) and Kildee (D-MI), S. 2577, the GusNIP Improvement Act of 2023 led by Sen. Hirono (D-HI), may be more feasible additions to the farm bill.

In May 2023, Reps. Crockett (D-TX), Alford (R-MO), and several other members of the House introduced H.R. 3127, the Supporting All Healthy Options When Purchasing Produce Act or the SHOPP Act. The goal of this bipartisan legislation is to increase year-round availability of fresh frozen fruits or vegetables through the provision of these foods to SNAP recipients. Previous BPC task force recommendations have acknowledged the need for a stronger emphasis on access to all types of fruits and vegetables.

The Senior Nutrition Task Force Act of 2023 (S. 2361) was introduced by Sens. Casey (D-PA) and Collins (R-ME) in July. This bipartisan legislation creates an interagency task force focused on reducing hunger and promoting healthy food among older adults and those with disabilities.  This task force will provide a report to Congress in 2026 about appropriate next steps.

BPC Action also extended its support to a bipartisan bill that would increase the delivery of nutritious meals to Medicare beneficiaries. The Medically Tailored Home-Delivery Meals Demonstration Act (S.2133) would establish a 4-year pilot program to test a payment and service delivery model to provide medically tailored meals under Medicare Part A. The bill, introduced by Sens. Stabenow (D-MI), Marshall (R-KS), Booker (D-NJ), and Cassidy (R-LA), aims to improve health outcomes and reduce health care costs. The bill is particularly relevant for older adults on Medicare who are disproportionately impacted by diet-related chronic diseases. In 2019, BPC provided an analysis noting that the targeted utilization of medically tailored meals among Medicare beneficiaries could save money. In addition, BPC is working on a report focusing on Food is Medicine interventions with an anticipated release in November.

BPC will continue to encourage lawmakers to address health through nutrition by implementing new pilot programs, enhancing data collection, and expanding employment and training opportunities for individuals enrolled in SNAP. The progress made during this congressional session is promising and we hope to see these bills turn into actionable measures. As diet-related diseases continue to rise, addressing nutritious food access for all must be a priority.

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