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"The government should ban sugary drinks from the food-stamp program and give a bigger boost to fruits and vegetables, recommends a new report released by the influential Bipartisan Policy Center today. The report urges leaders to essentially better align the goals of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Medicaid -- which was greatly expanded by the Affordable Care Act -- so taxpayers are not subsidizing poor nutrition for low-income people and then also paying for the consequences. SNAP serves more than 40 million Americans people each month costs about $70 billion a year. The recommendations come from a 13-member task force, co-chaired by Former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Dan Glickman, who served as agriculture secretary under the Clinton administration, and Ann Veneman, who was as agriculture secretary in the George W. Bush administration. The bipartisan group worked to find consensus over the course of nine months...The report comes just days ahead of the House Agriculture Committee’s release of its version of the farm bill. The details of the bill are still murky, but the draft version is expected to expand work requirements for millions of SNAP beneficiaries. The bill is already stoking outrage among Democrats ahead of the expected markup next week...“This report was not a budget exercise,” Frist said Friday, ostensibly distancing the report from any push to reduce spending on SNAP. “We’re not interested in seeing any reductions.” The task force, supported with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, also recommended giving the USDA authorization to collect and share store-level SNAP food purchase data -- something retailers have long opposed. The group said it would give states a better idea of the nutritional quality of the food being bought with SNAP dollars...Asked about whether low-income families should be able to make their own food choices, including with their SNAP dollars, Glickman said he understood the argument but added that sugar-sweetened beverages are unhealthy enough that taxpayer dollars shouldn’t be used to purchase them. “The truth is that there is an abundance of science and research literature that sugar-sweetened beverages are uniquely harmful to health...the evidence is extremely clear,” he said...The report calls on Congress to spend $100 million over five years to allow USDA to pilot different approaches to encouraging healthier eating. It also recommends that USDA improve SNAP education and rejigger how nutrition is organized at the department. The task force suggests that a new combined role be created to give one person dual oversight as the Food and Nutrition Service deputy administrator and the director of the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, which is being merged into FNS."

Posted March 12th, 2018