Statement of CSPI president Dr. Peter G. Lurie
Income inequality and poverty, particularly child poverty, have cascading negative impacts on Americans’ health outcomes. That’s why the Center for Science in the Public Interest strongly endorses the Biden administration’s American Families Plan, which President Biden will make the case for tonight.
The American Families Plan would invest $45 billion to help low-income Americans have greater access to nutrition assistance through the school meals program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and other programs. It expands access to free school meals by making it easier for high-poverty schools to qualify under the Community Eligibility Provision, a program that allows schools with at least 40 percent of students participating in SNAP to serve free meals.
It also expands and makes permanent the summer Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) program, which helps families with children who qualify for subsidized school meals buy additional groceries through their SNAP EBT card over the summer. And the plan would use $1 billion to encourage schools not just to meet, but to exceed, school meal nutrition standards—schools will ultimately need to address unsafe levels of salt and added sugar.
Additionally, the plan ends the cruel policy that prohibits those previously incarcerated for drug-related felonies from receiving SNAP benefits unless individual states modify the policy. Re-entering society from confinement is hard enough for those men and women—and their children—without access to this important nutritional lifeline.
Critically, the American Families Plan would also create a family and medical leave program. No one should have to choose between losing a day’s pay and reporting to work sick, risking worsening one’s own health and the health of coworkers or customers.
Considered alongside the American Rescue Act, the American Families Plan would round out the most ambitious anti-poverty program we’ve seen since the Lyndon Johnson administration. Its swift passage would bring about a healthier, more resilient, and more equitable future as we rebuild from the COVID-19 pandemic.
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