The National Commission on Hunger released a report this week that proposes broad changes to food policies and covers the extent of hunger and its many causes in the United States. The report, titled “Freedom from Hunger: An Achievable Goal for the United States of America,” recognizes that a stronger economy, greater personal responsibility and community, and private sector engagement, as well as strong government programs all play a role in ending hunger.
The 10-member Commission was appointed by the bipartisan House and Senate leadership and represents government, industry, academia and nonprofit organizations. The charge of the commission is “to provide policy recommendations to Congress and the USDA Secretary to more effectively use existing programs and funds of the Department of Agriculture to combat domestic hunger and food insecurity.”
Many of the recommendations were targeted to improve the job training and work incentives in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and to make administrative improvements to both SNAP and child nutrition programs.
According to the report, the percentage of households facing hunger rose from 4.1 percent in 2007 to 5.4 percent in 2010, and has remained around 5.6 percent since, even as the economic recovery enters its sixth year.
“The SNAP program was reauthorized in the 2014 farm bill through 2017, but Congress is actively overseeing SNAP and all the nutrition programs to identify ways to improve the programs,” said Ruth Saunders, IDFA vice president of policy and legislative affairs.
Several of the recommendations are of interest to the food industry.
- Congress should encourage the U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop mechanisms for incentivizing purchases of healthier foods with SNAP funds. Recommendations include retail-based product-placement strategies and visible shelf space that encourage the purchase of healthy products.
- SNAP education should be broadened to include low-fat dairy products and high-quality proteins.
- Congress should require that USDA allow greater flexibility for states to apply for SNAP waivers and demonstrations.
- Congress should encourage USDA to assess the effectiveness of public and private forms of nutrition education on purchasing habits, nutrient intake, health and food insecurity.
- Congress should provide incentives for creating and sustaining public-private partnerships.
- A national, coordinated plan among multiple government and private-sector partners should be established to address hunger and its root causes through a White House Leadership Council.
The report also recommends that Congress should eliminate the ability for SNAP users to purchase certain sugar-sweetened beverages with their SNAP benefits. No definition for sugar-sweetened beverages was included but, according to the report, it is recommended that major health and nutrition organizations such as the World Health Organization, the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Institute of Medicine and the Surgeon General of the United States determine which sugar-sweetened beverages would be excluded from SNAP’s allowable purchase list.
Congress is expected to hold hearings on the report’s recommendations sometime this year.
For more information about the report, contact Saunders at email@example.com.