September 2018 Issue

Editor's Spot: Feeding the Hungry
By Judith Riddle
Today's Dietitian
Vol. 20, No. 9, P. 4

As many dietitians know, the 2014 Farm Bill expires at the end of this month, and the 2018 Farm Bill will be born. For weeks the House of Representatives and the Senate have been hashing out their very different versions of the bill in hopes of developing one that will benefit the lives of all Americans. What's most worrisome for many RDs is the fate of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the nation's largest hunger relief program that helps put food on the table for more than 42 million low-income individuals. The program provides free meals to school-age children, preventing nutrient deficiencies and promoting greater academic excellence; nourishes pregnant women, reducing the risk of delivering low-birth weight babies; and offers other benefits.

What astounds me is the stark differences between the proposals of the House and Senate. The House wants to impose stricter work requirements on participants, tighten eligibility criteria, and drastically cut funding, which would cause millions of people to lose their benefits or have them reduced. Moreover, millions of children would suffer, as many would lose access to free school meals and be eligible only for reduced-price or paid meals. Conversely, the Senate isn't requiring new restrictions but is supporting the importance of SNAP and including provisions to strengthen the program. Lawmakers in the House want to cut SNAP funding because they allegedly believe it would end the dependency on a free handout while reducing the Farm Bill's costs, as approximately 80% of the bill's annual budget is allocated to SNAP.

In my opinion, this reasoning is flawed. Food insecurity/hunger is a real problem in this country. Dramatically reducing funding and imposing more restrictions on eligibility would hurt millions of individuals and families—especially children, the most vulnerable. One of the priorities of the administration should be the health and well-being of the nation's children. But one must wonder: Are children a priority? I'm not so sure they are, since funding for SNAP hangs in the balance and thousands of infants and children recently were torn from the arms of their mothers and fathers at the Texas border. I digress, but the point is children matter. Let's hope our lawmakers on both sides think so and develop ways to improve, not dismantle, SNAP and continue to fight hunger in America.

Please enjoy the articles on heart disease in postmenopausal women, plant-based milks, menu labeling, and our annual dining guide. We look forward to seeing you at the Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo.™ Stop by booth 1633 and say hello!

Judith Riddle