Ideas. Action. Results.

2018 Farm Bill Strengthens SNAP-Education, Lacks Focus on Diet Quality

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Washington, D.C.– The following is a statement on the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill by the Bipartisan Policy Center’s SNAP Task Force co-chairs former secretaries of agriculture Dan Glickman and Ann Veneman and former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, M.D.:

“The 2018 Farm Bill passed by Congress contains major wins for SNAP-Education, healthy food incentives, and innovative nutrition pilots. These are important issues that are consistent with recommendations by the Bipartisan Policy Center’s SNAP Task Force released earlier this year. However, we believe more needs to be done in the 116th Congress to make diet quality a priority in the program.

“This legislation directs USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service to provide key technical assistance to support states in implementing and evaluating SNAP-Education. Given adequate appropriations, these changes will be a major step towards strengthening the nation’s largest and most important federal nutrition education and obesity prevention program.

“Also commendable in the bipartisan legislation is the funding increase for the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Program (FINI). FINI’s funds increase from $100 million to $250 million over five years. With these additional funds, FINI will be able to support more projects that incentivize fruits and vegetables to SNAP participants. Equally encouraging is the $4 million per year for the new Harvesting Health pilot project to prescribe fruits and vegetables to low-income individuals that suffer from or are at-risk of developing a diet-related health condition. Innovative pilots like this are key to mitigating the costs of the diet-related disease crisis currently threatening our health care system, economy, and national security.

“Among these successes, there were also missed opportunities. Although this new Farm Bill supports fruit and vegetables incentives, research has shown that positive incentives combined with targeted disincentives for foods devoid of nutritional value, like sugar-sweetened beverages, are the most effective way of consistently improving diets. Exploring combined incentives and disincentives can still be done through robust pilots and research.

“Furthermore, we wish the 2018 Farm Bill had made diet-quality an explicit SNAP priority. SNAP’s current core objectives—fiscal integrity and food security—are critically important, but the primary focus of the program should be on nutrition. Luckily, this can still be done through voluntary internal policy change at the USDA, which we would wholeheartedly support.

“Despite these shortcomings, we applaud the committees’ bipartisan work and encourage the 116th Congress to create more bipartisan legislation that improves nutrition, promotes better health outcomes, and reduces healthcare costs while continuing to effectively meet the needs of America’s most vulnerable citizens.”

KEYWORDS: FARM BILL, SUPPLEMENTAL NUTRITION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (SNAP)