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The New Health Dialogue

A Blog from New America's Health Policy Program

Ideas for a Smarter SNAP

Published:  January 4, 2013
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The first article in last week's Journal of the American Medical Association, coauthored by Health Policy Senior Fellow Susan Blumenthal, presents a compelling argument that the SNAP program (formerly food stamps) is contributing to the growing obesity problem, particularly among low-income children. If we want to keep people healthier in the long run--and better control our healthcare spending at the same time--it's worth thinking about ways to help SNAP beneficiaries stay a healthier size.

The problem is pretty simple. Federal food assistance programs have been very successful in reducing the number of Americans who don't get enough calories to live, but SNAP--the largest one--doesn't include any mechanism for targeting spending toward foods that provide high-quality energy and plentiful nutrients, so a lot of the money ends up getting spent on soda and other junk food. Those foods appear to contribute to obesity, which can later lead to diabetes and a host of other medical conditions.

That challenge prompted Blumenthal to lead a group that created a report, SNAP to Health, laying out some policy changes that could help reduce obesity among the SNAP population and improve our health in the future. The report is long, but worth a look--check it out! Also check out the JAMA piece here.

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