A story this week on NPR’s food blog, The Salt, emphasized one of the hard impacts of poverty in America: those on food stamps eat less nutritious food. Their story highlighted a review of 25 studies over the past decade that look at food spending and diets of Americans receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
From the article:
Compared with both higher-income Americans and low-income people eligible but not enrolled in the program, SNAP participants on average ate about the same number of calories. But they consumed fewer fruits and vegetables and whole grains and more added sugars, says Tatiana Andreyeva, the study’s lead author and a researcher with the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at the University of Connecticut.
“SNAP is working to reduce food insecurity. That’s the good news,” Andreyeva tells The Salt. “One of the major findings is we didn’t find any difference in calorie intake. The bad news is that the quality of diet is lower.”
What this means is there’s huge opportunity for USDA, which runs SNAP, to shift the needle on providing more nutritious, healthy food as part of the program. Poor people don’t inherently make bad food choices. What food they have access to is considerably different than the healthier foods that are readily available to those with higher incomes.
In California, the state with the highest poverty rate nationally, we have even greater hurdles to ensure nutritious food is accessible on a scale to improve health outcomes for our poor. We’re doing our part to meet that challenge head on, by running Market Match in California. The program has grown by leaps and bounds the past few years – but demand for the program still outpaces its resources. The program makes healthy food affordable to people on food stamps by matching their benefits when they shop at Farmers’ Markets. This enables them to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, and supports small farmers, too.
You can help this program scale up, and shift the nutrition wealth gap in California. On Governor Brown’s desk right now is a bill, AB 1321, that would help nutrition incentive programs expand in California. He has until October 11th – tell him to sign it!