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"A landmark bipartisan commission is recommending Congress remove certain sugar-sweetened beverages from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — a controversial proposal that would put billions of dollars in beverage sales at stake. The recommendation, buried within the 96-page National Commission on Hunger report released Monday, could gain some attention in the long-running debate over the role of SNAP because it's rare to have unanimous, bipartisan agreement on hunger or nutrition policy. Democratic and Republican leadership each selected five members of the commission, which was created by a $1 million provision in the 2014 omnibus. “The commission unanimously felt that SNAP could do more on nutrition issues, and one way it could do so is to make a statement on a product that is clearly unhealthy," said Commission Co-Chair Robert Doar, an American Enterprise Institute fellow in poverty studies. "There was strong bipartisan support for that."...The panel's recommendations cross ideological and political lines and come after years of strong opposition in the hunger community against limiting foods in SNAP. The commission recommends Congress and the USDA require states to provide SNAP recipients with more opportunities to gain the skills necessary "to find jobs with wages sufficient to enable them to leave SNAP.” It also calls for more flexibility in how benefits expire to make the transition off of assistance easier for participants as their incomes increase and calls on President Barack Obama to establish a White House Leadership Council to End Hunger. At the same time, the report recommends that USDA improve and expand nutrition education for recipients, expand shelf space for healthy foods at SNAP-eligible retailers, and at Congress' urging, "develop mechanisms for incentivizing purchases of healthier foods.""

Posted January 4th, 2016