Advocacy groups ask Congress to protect Farm Bill nutrition programs

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, April 10, 2012-More than 90 national and regional advocacy organizations, including the American Farmland Trust and the United Fresh Produce Association, sent a letter to Congress urging the Senate and House Agriculture Committees to strengthen and protect nutrition programs in the 2012 Farm Bill. The letter is being sent as the Senate Agriculture Committee is expected to begin marking up a Farm Bill this month.

"With unemployment still stuck over 8 percent nationally and millions of families struggling to put food on the table, it is inconceivable that Congress would make cuts to nutrition programs in the Farm Bill," said David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World. "The need for food assistance has never been greater."

Last year, the Senate and House Agriculture Committees recommended $4.2 billion in nutrition cuts to the Super Committee as part of the deficit reduction process. The House budget resolution passed last month would make $133.5 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the largest federal nutrition program, formerly called food stamps.

The stakeholders urging Congress to strengthen Farm Bill nutrition programs said their recommendations are guided by three shared principles: 1) protect against hunger; 2) improve nutrition and health outcomes among vulnerable populations; and 3) strengthen community-based initiatives that link farmers with consumers and increase access to healthy food.

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The coalition's principles guide a set of specific recommendations for SNAP, The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) and other Farm Bill nutrition programs. The text of the letter and list of endorsing organizations is below. SOURCE Public Health Institute.

Nutrition Priorities for the 2012 Farm Bill

The undersigned organizations offer the following recommendations to improve nutrition and health and to increase access to affordable, nutritious food, particularly for vulnerable populations including children, seniors, and low-income families and individuals. While our organizations have specific missions and farm bill priorities, we are guided by three shared principles that shape our collective priorities. The farm bill must: I) protect against hunger; II) improve nutrition and health outcomes among vulnerable populations; and III) strengthen community-based initiatives that link farmers with consumers and increase access to healthy food.

Protect against hunger by ensuring adequate resources for federal nutrition assistance programs and emergency food providers.

Protect eligibility, benefit levels, and program integrity of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to ensure that low-income Americans have the resources necessary to afford a nutritious diet and prevent hunger.

Ensure adequate supply of nutritious commodities for distribution through emergency food providers by increasing mandatory commodities provided by The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) and maintaining authorized funding levels for TEFAP storage and distribution.

Maintain Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) authorization at current levels and focus program on improving nutrition for low-income seniors by transitioning CSFP to a seniors-only program, with grandfathered protection for women, infants, and children currently enrolled.

Provide a tax credit to farmers to incentivize earlier donation of high quality produce to food banks for distribution through the charitable food system.

Improve nutrition and health outcomes for vulnerable populations by increasing consumption of fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods.

Maintain current funding for SNAP Nutrition Education to help low-income Americans make healthy choices on a limited budget, reduce their risk of chronic disease and obesity, and optimize the SNAP benefit.

Maintain current funding for the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program and protect the integrity of the program to ensure that low-income elementary students have a fresh fruit or vegetable snack at school every day.

Provide grants for SNAP incentive programs to increase the purchase and consumption of fruits and vegetables at farmers markets and other healthy food retailers.

Strengthen SNAP national vendor standards to improve availability of healthy foods while balancing adequate access to retailer outlets.

Maintain funding for the National Institute of Food and Agriculture for vital research on nutrition, hunger and food security, and obesity prevention.

Strengthen community-based nutrition initiatives that link farmers with consumers and increase access to healthy food to reduce food insecurity, improve nutrition, and promote self-reliance, economic development and job creation.

Ensure funding for existing farmers' market, community food, and agriculture marketing and food hub development programs to improve outcomes and efficiency, meet demand, and maximize impact.

Increase mandatory funding for Community Food Projects to improve nutrition and food security among low-income individuals and communities.

Provide SNAP EBT point of sale devices to farmers markets, farm stands, green carts and other non-traditional healthy food retailers to improve access and increase consumption of fruits and vegetables.

Nutrition Priorities for the 2012 Farm Bill Signatories

Academy of Nutrition and DieteticsAmerican Academy of PediatricsAmerican Commodity Distribution AssociationAmerican Farmland TrustAmerican Heart AssociationAmerican Public Health AssociationAmerican Society for NutritionAsian & Pacific Islander American Health ForumAssociation of Jewish Family & Children's AgenciesAssociation of SNAP-Ed Nutrition Networks and Other Implementing AgenciesAssociation of State & Territorial Public Health Nutrition DirectorsBread for the WorldCalifornia Association of Nutrition & Activity ProgramsCalifornia Food and Justice CoalitionCalifornia Food Policy AdvocatesCalifornia Public Health Association-NorthCampaign for Better NutritionCatholic Charities USACenter for Science in the Public InterestChurch of the BrethrenCommunity Food Security CoalitionCommunity Health CouncilsCongressional Hunger CenterDefeat Diabetes FoundationDisciples Home Missions, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and CanadaDisciples Justice Action NetworkEarth Day NetworkEnd Hunger NetworkEnvironmental Working GroupEvangelical Lutheran Church in AmericaFair Food NetworkFarm SanctuaryFarmers Market CoalitionFeeding America FGE Food & Nutrition TeamFirst Focus Campaign for ChildrenFood & Water WatchGreen For AllHealthyPlanetInstitute for Agriculture and Trade PolicyJewish Council for Public AffairsJohns Hopkins Center for a Livable FutureLeague of United Latin American CitizensLiberty Prairie FoundationMAZON: A Jewish Response to HungerMeals on Wheels Association of AmericaMennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington OfficeMissouri Association of Local Public Health AgenciesNational Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good ShepherdNational Association of County and City Health OfficialsNational Association of Nutrition and Aging Services ProgramsNational Association of States United for Aging and DisabilitiesNational Commodity Supplemental Food Program AssociationNational Congress of Black Women, Inc.National Consumers LeagueNational Council of Jewish WomenNational Council on AgingNational Family Farm CoalitionNational Farm to School NetworkNational Farmers UnionNational Hispanic Medical AssociationNational Immigration Law CenterNational Latina Institute for Reproductive HealthNational Law Center on Homelessness & PovertyNational Network of Public Health InstitutesNational WIC AssociationNETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice LobbyNorth Carolina Alliance for HealthPartnership for PreventionPhysicians Committee for Responsible MedicinePresbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public WitnessPublic Health InstitutePublic Health Law and PolicyRESULTSSave the ChildrenSchool Food FOCUS National OfficeSchool Nutrition AssociationShape Up America!Share Our StrengthSociety for Nutrition Education and BehaviorSociety of St. AndrewThe Alliance to End HungerThe Center for Communications, Health & the EnvironmentThe National Center on Family HomelessnessThe South Carolina Eat Smart, Move More CoalitionThe United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness MinistriesTrust for America's HealthUnion for Reform JudaismUnited Fresh Produce AssociationUpstream Public HealthVoices for America's ChildrenWholesome Wave

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