Statement of CSPI Campaign Manager, Healthy Food Access, Joelle Johnson, MPH
The Center for Science in the Public Interest supports the SNAP Nutrition Security Act of 2023 (S.2326). For the first time, this bill will generate data needed to determine how the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) impacts nutrition security and how the program can improve access to nutritious food. Importantly, this bill does not change what SNAP recipients can buy and it does not impose restrictions on certain foods.
“Nutrition security” is currently defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as “consistent and equitable access to healthy, safe, affordable foods essential to optimal health and well-being.” Nutrition security is related to, yet distinct from, food security, which USDA defines as “access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life.” Nutrition security emphasizes the coexistence of hunger and diet-related chronic disease that disproportionately impacts individuals with low incomes.
USDA already collects data and reports annually on food security, but nutrition security is not currently assessed or monitored so its role in mitigating health disparities may be overlooked. This bill requires national tracking and annual reporting on nutrition security, similar to the systems in place for tracking food security; which is critically important for understanding SNAP’s impact, and identifying ways to mitigate hunger, malnutrition, and chronic disease disparities. The bill also separately defines and requires reporting on “diet quality,” which is a distinct term from nutrition security referring to meeting key recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
The bill also adds food and nutrition security data to state SNAP Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Grant Program (SNAP-Ed) reports to help states determine how they can improve food and nutrition security. And it will require the USDA to collect and report in aggregate on de-identified SNAP sales data, to protect the identity of shoppers using SNAP and retailers. This data will provide insight on affordability of foods, the timing of purchases within a monthly benefit issuance cycle, and the types of products typically purchased. Knowing when certain foods are purchased and what type of food is being purchased can help inform opportunities to improve food and nutrition security. Further, data on fruit and vegetable purchases may be used to inform the need for incentive programs.
This bipartisan bill will provide the data needed to improve access to nutritious food and strengthen SNAP, our largest food safety net program. CSPI thanks Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) for investing in tools to inform future approaches to mitigate chronic disease disparities. We urge Congress to do the same by including The Nutrition Security Act in the 2023 Farm Bill.
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