Washington, DC - American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown issued the following statement on the farm bill, passed Wednesday by the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry:
“Few pieces of legislation have as much control over the food we eat as the farm bill. That’s why we are pleased to see, that unlike its House counterpart, the Senate has released bipartisan legislation that does not slash millions of Americans from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Rather than get stuck in political disagreements, the Senate’s willingness to negotiate has resulted in a bill that puts the needs of SNAP participants first. This legislation strengthens the nuts and bolts of how SNAP works – and helps to address the food insecurity of those Americans who rely on the program.
Fortunately, the Senate bill continues Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) grants and provides mandatory funding for the program, which offers incentives for extra fruit and vegetable purchases for SNAP participants. The bill would also strengthen FINI and create technical assistance and training centers to improve FINI’s efficiency and effectiveness.
Many of the Senate’s proposed reforms to SNAP are focused on addressing technical challenges. This includes SNAP Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) systems, which is how program benefits are delivered and redeemed at retailers. The bill would require the USDA to review state-level contract service agreements for SNAP EBT systems, streamline EBT use at farmer’s markets, and mandate that the Government Accountability Office more closely examine EBT outages.
In addition, the Senate bill would leave SNAP nutrition education funding intact. These programs are a critical touchstone for empowering SNAP participants with more information about food budgeting and guidance on selecting healthier food, which are essential for addressing the effects of food insecurity and poor nutrition.
Lastly, we are pleased that the Senate bill includes a provision to create a new pilot program to examine the effectiveness of produce prescriptions, which encourages doctors to write a prescription for people to purchase fruits and vegetables. This is an excellent move in the direction of making nutritious food more accessible to some of America’s most vulnerable populations.
Despite these improvements, we are disappointed that the legislation does not do enough to improve diet quality. If we truly want to see better health outcomes, we need to make nutrition a priority and a final farm bill that strongly addresses what all Americans choose to put on our plates every day.”