The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps, is the largest nutrition assistance program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service. In fiscal year 2010, SNAP served about 40.3 million people living in 18.6 million households.
The Institute of Medicine convened a food and nutrition committee last fall to examine the adequacy of food resources and SNAP allotments. The committee is studying "the feasibility of establishing an objective, evidence-based, science-driven definition of SNAP-benefit adequacy consistent with the program goals of improving food security and access to a healthy diet, and other relevant dimensions of adequacy." As part of the study, the committee is gathering data and analyses to support its assessment of the adequacy of SNAP allotments.
The committee held a meeting in Washington, D.C., at the end of March, along with a public workshop for gathering comments. Representatives from anti-hunger organizations, such as Feeding America and Meals on Wheels, as well as academics and the chair of IOM’s previous committee examining the nutritional requirements of the Child and Adult Care Food Program, were invited to speak.
Some Call for Food Restrictions
IDFA is following the activities of the committee to determine any potential impact on milk and dairy products purchased under the program. Currently, there are no restrictions on types of food purchased by SNAP participants, but some officials, primarily in city government, have raised the question whether participants should be able to buy soda, desserts and non-nutritious snacks using federal funds.
The Agriculture Department, for example, rejected a proposal from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg that would bar SNAP beneficiaries from buying certain types of foods, but some nutrition advocates have expressed interest in setting restrictions.
"Most of the experts who presented comments at the meeting were not in favor of limiting types of food, but we believe the committee will continue to consider it as an option," said Michelle Matto, IDFA's nutrition and labeling consultant, who attended the meeting.
The committee will hold additional meetings through June and plans to release a report with recommendations by the end of the year.
For more information, contact Matto at firstname.lastname@example.org.