Nutrition policies continue to be a priority for the American Heart Association and there are a few issues we will be keeping our eye on over the next few months.
While the renewal of a child nutrition bill, which gives America’s children access to healthier food options throughout their school day, has been put on hold indefinitely, healthy school meals standards remain vulnerable. Efforts continue in the appropriations process to roll back the sodium and whole grains nutrition standards, and a new change to the types of milk allowable has been included. These standards help ensure that the food options served in schools meet science-based nutrition criteria to help keep kids healthy. In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that they intended to change the school foods nutrition standards rule after seven years of successful implementation. Even though nearly 100% of participating schools are serving the healthier foods, USDA plans to discard the current science-based standards and allow more sodium, fewer whole grains, and 1% flavored milk into school meals. Once there is movement on either of these actions, we will need your help in ensuring children’s health comes first.
Related to child nutrition, Congress has started their process to reauthorize the farm bill. The farm bill is a multi-year piece of legislation that comprehensively addresses agriculture, food, nutrition, hunger, and public health policies, and will expire at the end of fiscal year 2018. The American Heart Association’s priorities for the farm bill are to protect the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which offers food assistance to eligible low-income individuals and families (formerly known as food stamps), while also looking at ways to improve dietary quality, access, and health outcomes among our nation’s most vulnerable populations. This includes advocating for;
- the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP), a federally-funded program that provides a free fresh fruits and vegetable snack to low-income students during their school day;
- the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives (FINI) program, a grant program aims to increase the purchase of fruits and vegetables among SNAP participants;
- SNAP-education, which teaches people who use or are eligible for SNAP about good nutrition, how to stretch their food dollars, and physical activity;
- expanding EBT technologies, which is the point of purchase for SNAP and can help increase access if accepted more places;
- increasing SNAP benefits so participants can afford healthy food all month, not just at the beginning ;
- and proposing a first of its kind pilot program to test an incentives-disincentives approach by allotting participants who chose not to use their benefits for sugary beverage purchases with extra fruit and vegetable benefits.
Stay tuned for more information and opportunities to take action as this debate heats up.