Assemblyman Andrew Goodell wants to see the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program used to purchase healthier foods.
Goodell recently introduced A.8469 in the state Assembly to amend the state Social Services Law to implement a healthy food initiative for SNAP users. If approved, the program could only be implemented if the federal government approves a waiver.
The Jamestown Republican wants to see the SNAP program more closely resemble the WIC program, which includes a list of healthy and nutritious foods and beverages while excluding foods with significant amounts of added sugar, artificial sweeteners or sodium.
Goodell uses the WIC program as a model for SNAP because, he wrote in his legislative justification, the WIC program has shown it can help decrease obesity at a time when obesity is increasing among the rest of the national population. Obesity has increased from about 14% of the population in the 1960s to about 40% today. Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control states children between the ages of 2 and 4 years of age from families enrolled in the WIC program have seen obesity decrease from 15.9% in 2010 to 14.4% in 2018.
“This legislation builds on the progress demonstrated by other programs that focus on healthy and nutritious foods and beverages by ensuring that SNAP benefits are used only for the purchase of such foods and beverages,” Goodell wrote in his legislative justification.
Gooodell’s focus on the SNAP program is not surprising. Goodell opposed legislation signed into law earlier this year mandating the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance to apply for USDA approval to authorize the program, which would allow homeless, elderly and disabled SNAP recipients to use their benefits for prepared or hot food from participating restaurants.
“I have the great pleasure of living with a vegetarian,” Goodell said. “I eat much of what she cooks — all of which, I might add, is both better tasting and more nutritious than what I cook. But this bill doesn’t require that anyone eat healthy food. And as we all know obesity is a large and growing problem. So we need to be sensitive to that. I appreciate the fact that for some restaurants this will give them an additional source of income. Only those private establishments that actually have a contract with the state of New York can participate in programs. So as a fact of the matter that is going to eliminate almost all local restaurants who are not going to go through the process of contracting with the OTDA so that they can provide restaurant food to SNAP benefit recipients. I hope in the future that we focus on a more healthy initiative to benefit all of the residents of New York state.”
A study released earlier this year by the U.S. Agriculture Department found that nearly nine out of 10 Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants face barriers in providing their household with a healthy diet throughout the month. The most common, reported by 61% of SNAP participants, is the cost of healthy foods. Participants who reported struggling to afford nutritious foods were more than twice as likely to experience food insecurity. Other barriers range from a lack of time to prepare meals from scratch (30%) to the need for transportation to the grocery store (19%) to no storage for fresh or cooked foods (14%).
“No one in America should have to worry about whether they can put healthy food on the table for themselves or their children,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack earlier this year. “Today’s report makes clear we still have work to do to ensure all Americans not only have food to eat, but access to nutritious foods.”