The USDA has invested $21 million in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) to help low-income families increase their purchases of healthy ingredients. The investments, which are made up of 24 distinct grants, will help SNAP recipients gain access to fresh fruits and vegetables via dollar-for-dollar matches and cash incentives to increase purchasing power at locations like farmers markets.
“Increasing low-income communities’ abilities to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables not only helps to improve the health of families, but also expands economic opportunities for farmers,” writes the USDA in a press release.
The funding for this program comes from the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive program, which was authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill. The program is a collaboration between the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service.
Grant participants include Wholesome Wave Georgia, the Arkansas Coalition for Obesity Prevention, South Dakota State University, and West Virginia Food & Farm Coalition, among others.
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In 2016, concerns over providing healthy choices to SNAP recipients resulted in an initiative requiring that stores participating in the program carry a greater number of healthy food items. The final iteration of the rule, published in December 2016, called for stores supporting SNAP to stock 84 healthy food items, half the proposed 168-item mandate. The rule was still an improvement on the previous minimum of stocking 12 healthy food items.
President Donald Trump recently Tweeted about SNAP, calling for Congress to pass a House version of the 2018 Farm Bill that would require most adults aged 18 to 59 to work part-time or enroll in 20 hours a week of workforce training in order to benefit from the program. Negotiators from both the House and the Senate are slated to meet in September to discuss differences between their respective versions of the bills.
In February of this year, a proposal was announced that would require half of the benefits provided to people receiving at least $90 a month (about 80 percent of all SNAP recipients) be in the form of a package of shelf-stable foods like canned fruit, peanut butter, and beans. The USDA believes the proposed change will reduce costs to state governments.
As of April 2018, approximately 19.7 million households were receiving SNAP benefits across the country, as compared to about 20.5 million in May 2017.
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