April 2020 Issue

Editor’s Spot: SNAP’s on My Mind
By Judith Riddle
Today’s Dietitian
Vol. 22, No. 4, P. 6

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the nation’s largest hunger relief initiative that feeds more than 42 million food-insecure individuals, has yet again come under attack. This isn’t breaking news, as most, if not all, dietitians probably heard about this months ago—especially those who help feed hungry families and their children in their communities. I’m late in writing about this important news because of the super-polarized political climate in which we’re living—but it’s time for me to address it.

Last summer, the Trump Administration issued three suggested rule changes in its 2021 budget proposal that would cause millions of people to either lose SNAP eligibility benefits or suffer from a reduction in food assistance dollars each month. The new rules would create stricter work requirements for eligibility, place a cap on deductions for utility allowances, and revise the way 40 states automatically enroll families in SNAP when these families receive other types of federal aid.

The Trump Administration first attempted to cut SNAP funding and place restrictions on eligibility when the House of Representatives and Senate were reauthorizing the 2018 Farm Bill. However, these proposals never came to fruition.

The USDA estimates the proposed changes would cut the SNAP budget by approximately $4.2 billion, but at the expense of those who will suffer from hunger. The highest numbers of low-income individuals who would lose their SNAP benefits live in California (~626,000), Florida (~354,000), New York (~290,000), Pennsylvania (~289,000), Texas (~206,000), and Washington state (~157,000).

If these proposals are approved, hundreds of thousands more would lose their SNAP benefits across the United States. More specifically, 3.7 million fewer people would receive SNAP benefits per month; 2.2 million participating households would experience a $127 per month decrease in benefits; and almost 1 million school children who participate in the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program would lose access to free or reduced-cost meals, impacting academic performance and their overall health.

This would be a travesty not only for families and their children but also for older adults and those with disabilities who count on receiving food assistance for sustenance. (What’s more, the budget proposal is calling for $1 trillion in cuts to Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act over a decade, causing millions to lose coverage.) I’m curious to know how dietitians feel about this, as I’m sure this must be upsetting to many of you who are passionate about feeding the hungry in your neighborhoods through local food banks, faith-based organizations, and various community programs. Please e-mail me and comment on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

Another group who would be affected by these proposed changes are college students—many of whom are already suffering from food insecurity at an alarming rate and are the subject of our feature article “Food Insecurity on College Campuses” on page 32.

After reading this article, turn to the others on soyfoods and thyroid health, omega-3s and sports performance, and treating malnutrition in older adults. Please enjoy the issue!

Judith Riddle