The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): Time to Test a Sweetened Beverage Restriction

In testimony on February 16, 2017, before the House Committee on Agriculture, Angela Rachidi with the American Enterprise Institute made four main points before the House Committee on Agriculture. Here is her opening statement:

Chairman Conaway, Ranking Member Peterson, and other Members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify this morning on restrictions on purchases in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP.

My name is Angela Rachidi, and I am a research fellow in poverty studies at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). Prior to joining AEI, I spent almost a decade at the New York City Human Resources Administration (HRA) as the Deputy Commissioner for Policy and Evaluation. HRA is New York City’s main social service agency and administers SNAP. During my time at HRA, the city provided SNAP benefits to almost 2 million New Yorkers each month.

In my role, I studied all aspects of the program. Most relevant for today is my experience—under the direction of then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Commissioners for Health Thomas Friedan and Thomas Farley, and HRA Commissioner Robert Doar—drafting a proposal for a demonstration project in New York City to restrict the use of SNAP benefits to purchase sweetened beverages. We proposed a restriction as a way to support the overarching goal of the program, which is to improve nutrition. Regrettably, it was denied by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 2011.

In the years since I left HRA, the public health problems caused by sweetened beverages have not solved themselves. I am here today to urge the Committee to support demonstration projects that test whether a sweetened beverage restriction in SNAP can improve the health and well-being of SNAP recipients.

I will make four main points to support this recommendation:

1. Obesity and related health problems remain one of the most challenging public health issues of our time, affecting millions of poor and non-poor Americans, with sweetened beverages identified as one the main contributors.

2. The integrity of SNAP as a publicly-funded program rests on how well its implementation matches the stated goals of the program. Congress has stated that the purpose of SNAP is to support nutrition among low-income households, which is directly contradicted by allowing sweetened beverages to be purchased.

3. This public health problem is complex and requires a comprehensive approach that includes multiple strategies, including changes to SNAP.

4. A demonstration project to test a sweetened beverage restriction in SNAP is consistent with bipartisan efforts to support evidence-based policymaking. Through rigorous evaluation, a demonstration project could assess whether government efforts can achieve potential gains, such as better health, without adversely affecting other measures of well-being.

Consider the Source

 Consider the First Source!

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In the beginning was the Word, and the Word choreographed an assembly of amino acids into an exquisite array of specific proteins. Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.” In so doing God demonstrated a penchant for genomic writing, preceeded by an amazing series of prebiotic events, in a highly orchestrated presentation of evolutionary overcontrol.

More about God’s Handiwork!

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