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Government aid needs to focus on healthy food

A number of health care and nutritional experts called on Congress to preserve SNAP (the food assistance program) and to reshape it to reduce diet-related health problems affecting low-income Americans, including the working poor, children, and more than 1.5 million veteran households.

"When the Food Stamp Program was established in 1964, obesity affected only a small percentage of the U.S. population," said Dr. Susan Blumenthal/ "Today, with 68 percent of Americans overweight, obesity is fueling a tsunami of chronic diseases that undermines our country's health, economy and national security."

Marion Nestle, Ph.D., M.P.H., professor and former chair of the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University added: "The WIC (Women, Infants and Children) Program was updated in 2009 to align with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and improve its nutrition standards, making it easier for participants to purchase fruits and vegetables, for example – it's time for SNAP to do the same and help address today's needs."

SNAP currently provides 46.2 million participants with resources to purchase food (while excluding alcohol, tobacco, food eaten in the store, hot prepared foods, and dietary supplements). Citing the fact that fifty percent of SNAP participants are children, the report emphasizes the importance of updating SNAP so that it can fulfill the promise of its recent name change from the Food Stamp Program to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

"First and foremost, the current SNAP budget should be preserved – we cannot leave millions of Americans without this vital safety net," said Susan Blumenthal, M.D., M.P.A., Former U.S. Assistant Surgeon General and Director of the Health and Medicine Program at the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress (CSPC), the organization that conducted a study of how to improve the health impact of SNAP with the Harvard School of Public Health and other partners. "But the absolute next priority is to strengthen nutrition in SNAP – the fact that 1 in 7 Americans are food insecure while two-thirds of adults and one-third of children are overweight or obese reveals a perilous American paradox that SNAP must address."

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