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Booker, Rubio Introduce Bipartisan SNAP Legislation to Measure and Improve Nutrition Security and Diet Quality

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced the bipartisan SNAP Nutrition Security Act, legislation that would amend the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 to prioritize, measure and improve diet quality and nutrition security in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), especially for children.

Diet-related chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers are the leading causes of death and disability in the United States. At present, half of U.S. adults have prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, and 3 in 4 are overweight or obese. Poor diet and obesity are estimated to account for as much as 30 percent of cancer deaths in the U.S. These conditions create a heavy burden for individuals and society, negatively impacting quality of life, increasing health care costs, reducing productivity, and impacting military readiness. The leading risk factor for chronic disease development is poor nutrition. The economic cost of nutrition-related chronic diseases has been estimated at $16 trillion over the period from 2011 to 2020.

SNAP is the largest food safety net program and provides food assistance to low-income families, helping to reduce poverty and food insecurity. However, less is known about SNAP’s impact on improving nutrition security, defined as consistent and equitable access to healthy, safe, affordable foods essential to optimal health and wellbeing. Nutrition security builds on food security by emphasizing the coexistence of hunger and diet-related chronic disease that disproportionately impacts Americans with low incomes. Nutrition security focuses on access to nutritious food, where food security focuses on access to all foods. Both food and nutrition security are critical, complementary measures for understanding SNAP’s impact, identifying ways to mitigate hunger and malnutrition, and improving access to healthy food to mitigate chronic disease disparities.

“SNAP plays a crucial role in alleviating poverty and food insecurity, but needs to do better at improving nutrition security and diet quality for program participants,” said Senator Booker. “We need timely, comprehensive data to determine SNAP’s impact on nutrition security and diet quality in order to effectively promote access to nutritious food, improve the well-being of SNAP recipients, and help address our nation’s alarming increase in chronic diet-related diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.”

“In the midst of America’s obesity crisis, taxpayer dollars shouldn’t be spent on junk food,” said Senator Rubio. “This legislation would strengthen the SNAP program by requiring the USDA to collect data on the impact of SNAP. This data willprovidea clearer picture of how SNAP can be used to improverecipient’shealth and ensure the program promotes a healthy, nutritious diet.”

“What we eat and drink matter to our heart and brain health. The SNAP Nutrition Security Act of 2023 would help ensure that programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program can adequately track and measure the availability, accessibility and affordability of nutritious foods, making a healthy diet a reality for more people across the country,” said Mark Schoeberl, Executive Vice President of Advocacy at the American Heart Association. “The American Heart Association thanks Senators Booker and Rubio for their work to improve food security and nutrition quality for families nationwide and urges their colleagues in Congress to support this important legislation.”

“This bipartisan bill will provide the information needed to improve access to nutritious food and strengthen SNAP, our largest food safety net program,” said Center for Science in the Public Interest Senior Policy Associate Joelle Johnson. “CSPI thanks Senators Booker and Rubio 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.”

“SNAP is a powerful program for reducing hunger and food insecurity. Given the program’s extensive reach and potential, alongside the staggering consequences of our national epidemic of diet-related diseases, it’s time to make advancing nutrition security an additional core, measurable objective of SNAP,” said Dariush Mozaffarian, a cardiologist and Jean Mayer Professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. “This new bill is a sensible step to advance nutrition security through a lens of health equity, as people who experience food insecurity have higher risk for poor nutrition and diet-related conditions, founded in long-standing social determinants of health and other structural inequities.”

“Low-income Americans repeatedly tell us they think federal food programs such as SNAP should do more to both reduce U.S. hunger and help families afford healthier food.  We are pleased that this bill will formalize both goals within the program,” said Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America, a nationwide direct service and advocacy organization. “All Americans deserve access to sufficient, nutritious food. We greatly thank Senator Booker for his leadership on these issues.” 

“By strengthening SNAP, we can help protect national security by providing more young Americans access to nutritious foods so they can grow up healthy and prepared for success,” said Lieutenant General Norman Seip, U.S. Air Force (Ret.), Mission: Readiness member.

“Efforts to insure that all Americans, regardless of income, have access to the nutrition they need will help address rapidly rising rates of obesity and diabetes in the US,” said Hilary Seligman, Director, Food Policy, Health, and Hunger Research Program at UCSF’s Center for Vulnerable Populations. “A continued focus on nutrition security and high-quality dietary intake will help set the US on a trajectory toward better health now and in generations to come. SNAP is an enormously important part of these efforts.”

“Congress should make diet quality a core, statutory focus of SNAP. The Bipartisan Policy Center endorses this bipartisan legislation that will help guarantee that the SNAP program not only addresses hunger but also facilitates access to nutritious foods,” said Shana Christrup, Director of Public Health with the Bipartisan Policy Center. “A critical initial measure toward strengthening nutrition security involves a robust data collection strategy which will provide vital insights to shape future SNAP strategies that advance food and nutrition security. BPC is excited to work with Senators Booker and Rubio on this bipartisan endeavor to enhance SNAP and create a positive impact.” 

“Throughout its decades of existence, there is no question that the SNAP program has been highly effective and efficient at reducing hunger. Today’s current realities, where 50% of Americans have a preventable chronic disease, 90% do not meet Dietary Guidelines for Americans’ fruit and vegetable recommendations, and SNAP participants’ consistently cite affordability as a barrier to healthier eating, only underscore how far we must go to improve positive health outcomes for communities across the U.S.,” said International Fresh Produce Association CEO Cathy Burns. “To that end, we must ensure that SNAP’s success is measured by its effectiveness in ensuring individuals have access to foods of high dietary quality like fresh fruits and vegetables. We thank Senators Booker and Rubio for their leadership to continue the fight of reducing nutrition insecurity in this country.”

“They say we are what we eat, and if we want healthier communities that are able to feed themselves with dignity, we must make nutrition a priority in the fight against hunger. I applaud this bipartisan effort from Senators Booker and Rubio, and encourage everyone to join them in building longer tables where a plate of food represents a better tomorrow”,said José Andrés, a chef, humanitarian, and founder of the Global Food Institute at George Washington University.

USDA currently monitors the extent and severity of food insecurity in U.S. households. This legislation would add nutrition security to USDA’s existing and annual reporting which will generate, for the first time, data needed to determine how SNAP impacts nutrition security, and therefore could improve access to nutritious food and the health and wellbeing of SNAP recipients. Understanding and strengthening the positive impact of SNAP also requires more regular data collection. The bill requires a nationally- and state-representative SNAP sales report every four years. Sales data would be de-identified and reported in the aggregate to protect the identity of both SNAP participants and retailers. This report would give insight into 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 will help improve ways that SNAP can advance food and nutrition security. USDA produced a similar study in 2016.

  • Require USDA to measure and annually report on nutrition security and diet quality, as USDA currently does for food security.
  • Add food and nutrition security reporting to annual state SNAP-Ed reports, which will help states determine how they can improve food and nutrition security.
  • Collect and report aggregate (de-identified) nationally- and state-representative SNAP food sales data.
  • Add improving nutrition security and diet quality to Congress’s declaration of policy for SNAP, which provides Congressional direction for the program and establishes USDA goals.

The full list of endorsing organizations can be found here.

The full text of the bill can be found here.

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