How to Eat Healthy In A SNAP

It is an agreed theory that everyone deserves access to a healthy diet including over 44 million of America’s SNAP beneficiaries, who constitute at times the most uncared for. Over 20 million of these are children who are more vulnerable to fall victim to malnutrition if the benefits are not used intelligently.

Background and a Recent Research

The US Department of Agriculture that is responsible to manage and oversee the SNAP program, perform s different research studies to improve the impact of this federal food assistance. A similar pilot project of research was proposed in 2008- Farm Bill to analyze out and prepare recommendations that could help recipients buy healthier food.

More recently in 2018, the economists of Oklahoma State University carried out a study to understand the manner in which the recipients buy food through SNAP benefits. They reached to the conclusion that the bigger portion of the funds in Agriculture Improvement Act 2018 commonly known as Farm Bill-2018, were reserved for the SNAP and not for the farmers. More importantly, the 2018 bill also suggested that the recommendations of the study under the 2008 bill would be implemented. Unfortunately, none of these could happen. Oklahoma State University research made the correlation between food assistance and fatness very clear to understand the percentage of participating using benefits to buy junk food.

The economists said it was found that the SNAP beneficiaries consuming more fats and 13% more calories than those poor folks were not on food benefits. The other frequently bought items by the SNAP participating families included cereals, processed meat, and soda. These buying habits led to the consumption of 5000 extra calories per week than needed in a healthy diet. One expert referred this pattern to the Enget’s Law in economics that increased income the percentage spent on food goes down. The SNAP beneficiaries are prone to spend over 10 % more of their family income on food than ineligible households. The data reflected that means people obtain more than what is needed to sustain a healthy life.

The USDA could utilize the said study to choose the ways through which it could motivate people to spend these benefits on healthier food items, especially for their kids.

THE CHALLENGES   

  1. The other group of experts studying SNAP program, on the other hand, point out some technical issues inherent in the Program. These start when the administration subsidized the retailers for vending high sugar foods and thick fats etc. which are even not recommended for the Americans in the Federal Dietary Guidelines. The official statistics reveal that around 50 percent of the funds go to shops and stores selling items like cheese, snacks, desserts, meats, and sweet beverages while 24 % goes to purchases of vegetables, grains, nuts, and beans, etc. which consequently increases the risk of disease among the families receiving SNAP assistance. The data shows that around 40 % of Snap participants are obese as compared to 32% of the same income level non SNAP participants. Similarly, SNAP beneficiaries have 70% higher case registered cases of diabetes than wealthy Americans.
  2. That is also the chief reason American medical association has strongly recommended to USDA to incentivize only the nutritious food and discourage or even ban the purchase of junk food in this federal sponsored program.
  • Also back in 2017 the North Carolina State University in association with Concerned Scientists found that SNAP covers only the partial (40-60%) cost of a healthy diet that is in line with Federal Dietary Guidelines.
  1. The reality is that the whole food system of the US needs to be corrected as the junk food is cheap and as the majority of the Americans live beyond a well-located distance of the grocery shops stocking healthier food items, which are costlier.
  2. A majority of the SNAP participants live in lower-income localities and are more susceptible to the worst food, very bad marketing and more innutritious food in the stores they buy from and most of the healthy food out of their reach.

 

HOW TO BUY HEALTHIER THROUGH SNAP BENEFITS    

Due to the above reasons proved through research and data analysis, there is growing support of Healthy Staples a program inspired by the Women, Infants and Children program (WIC) that offers packages that include food items like fruits vegetables, grains, and basic vitamins. This program would pay the participating shops who supply these items. Thus the beneficiaries would consume way better diet.

  • Rebates in the price of healthy food are recommended as a strategy that could potentially improve the diet of the SNAP participants.
  • The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, an organization that analyzes the government’s spending, said that the average assistance a family receives under SNAP is around $225, which is evidently insufficient to but healthy food intake of a family. A community-supported small scale agriculture initiative is one recommendation that can improve the quality of food by paying seasonal fees to local farmers and in exchange having fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • The assistance amounts can be used at local farmer markets and many of the States offer incentives that help low-income households get more for their dollars. For example in California Market Match program offers that each dollar spent in the participating market would entitle the beneficiary another dollar.
  • Similarly, an organization called Cooking Matters teaches families with SNAP benefits how to intelligently buy in a store and suggests that they should opt for frozen vegetables and other items when fresh products are expensive. It also educates them on practices to cut down food waste.
  • Recently the Amazon decided to lower the price of premier membership for those on public assistance or and free shipping for those with EBT cards. So buying from Amazon can also help people use SNAP assistance for purchasing healthier food at a comparatively lower price.

 

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