Newswise — Washington, D.C., Feb. 4, 2014 —American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown issued the following comments on the Agricultural Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013, passed by Congress today:
“The passage of the Farm Bill today has been long-anticipated and the American Heart Association is pleased that Congress has come to an agreement on this important legislation. While it took two long years of negotiations and a lot of hard work, we wish the final bill was less of an alphabet soup of wins and losses for health and nutrition programs.
We are encouraged that multiple provisions in the bill promote healthy food consumption. Sustained funding for the SNAP-Ed program will help more Americans on limited budgets make better food choices. The legislation also expands the program to include physical activity education, which plays an important role in helping Americans maintain their health. In addition, the bill authorizes the Healthy Food Financing Program under the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This program, which establishes grocery stores in underserved communities where none exist, will provide access to healthier foods and help boost local economies.
However, we remain very concerned about the $8.6 billion cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Any funding reduction to this program, which supports nutrition and food access, will make it more difficult for some of the most vulnerable Americans, including seniors and low-income families with children, to afford a healthy diet.
We are also troubled that the legislation creates a pilot within the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program that expands eligibility beyond fresh produce to canned, frozen and dried options. While the association believes that all whole fruits and vegetables regardless of their form are important for kids to eat, the current program plays a unique role by providing the poorest children in our country with much-needed exposure to fresh fruits and vegetables. We will closely monitor this pilot effort to ensure that it does not undermine the impact and integrity of this nutrition education program.
As always, our association remains committed to ensuring that all Americans have access to the nutritional information and food choices they need to stay heart healthy.”