The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s food stamp program should provide incentives to make fruits, vegetables and whole grains the easy choice, and regulators should work to create a national strategy to align food stamp purchases with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
Those are two recommendations in a July 18 report from the Washington, D.C.-based Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress.
The report said that the relatively high cost of fruits, vegetables and lean meats and grains is often cited as a barrier for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP/food stamp) participants to purchase healthy food.
To counter that, the government should allow retailers to offer SNAP participants discounts for defined healthy foods, according to the report.
Expanding incentive programs at retail, farmers markets and other venues could encourage consumption of healthier food, and makeover of nutrition standards for food stamp purchases may also be needed, the report’s authors said.
The report noted that the USDA has already altered nutrition standards for the Women, Infants and Children and national school lunches and urged federal officials to identify and test “transformative” improvements in the SNAP program to promote nutritious diets and prevent obesity.
The group also backed collecting data on SNAP Purchases, since currently the USDA does not collect data on the more than $75 billion by 46 million food stamp participants.
The government should require retailers to stock more healthy food to participate in the program, report said.