CRN Position Statement: Food Stamp Program Should be Expanded to Include Nutritional Supplements Providing Vitamins and Minerals

All Americans deserve equal access to the benefits of vitamin and mineral supplements to prevent illness and improve health

§ Vitamin and mineral supplements are especially relevant and important to low-income individuals as a means to enhance nutrition, improve health, prevent disease, enhance quality of life, increase individual productivity, and slow the increase in our nation’s rising health care costs. Food Stamp policy should facilitate and not impede the efforts of the nation’s poor to obtain all of these valued health benefits.

Currently, food stamps can be used to purchase junk food, sodas and candy, but not
a multivitamin

§ Food stamp recipients can use their benefits to purchase “any food or food product intended for human consumption,” regardless of nutritional value, yet USDA policy prohibits the use of food stamps to purchase vitamin and mineral supplements whose specific function is to improve nutritional status.

§ The food stamp program is our country’s first line of defense against hunger and malnutrition. As of the end of 2003, more than 21 million low income Americans relied on the program to meet their nutritional needs. And, as stated in federal regulations, the purpose of the food stamp program is to “promote the general welfare and to safeguard the health and well-being of the nation’s population by raising the levels of nutrition among low-income households.” (CFR Title 7, Part 271.1)

Dietary supplements provide health benefits to millions of Americans

§ Dietary supplements can serve as an effective nutritional bridge between what Americans should eat and what they actually consume. Repeated studies have shown that the poor and elderly are more likely than others to have insufficient and nutritionally inadequate diets. In fact, studies done by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) show that a very high proportion of women and children in lower income households fail to consume the recommended daily allowances of vitamins and minerals.

§ Vitamin and mineral supplements can help protect against heart disease and stroke and help reduce the risk of some cancers. The federal government itself encourages women of childbearing age to take folic acid to reduce the risk of birth defects. Calcium supplements have been shown to build bone mass in children and reduce bone loss in the elderly.

An estimated 150 million Americans use dietary supplements each year. Dietary supplements are a cost-effective way for consumers to take an active role in managing their healthcare. Combined with other healthful practices, dietary supplements are a component of smart lifestyle choices, playing a key role in preventative healthcare and overall good health.

CRN Supports the Food Stamp Vitamin and Mineral Improvement Act – S. 1546

CRN POSITION STATEMENT

Food Stamps Program Should Include Nutritional Supplements Providing Vitamins and Minerals

S. 1546: Food Stamp Vitamin and Mineral Improvement Act of 2005

Sponsors: Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), introduced on July 28, 2005

What: S. 1546 would amend the Food Stamp Act of 1977 to permit the recipients of food stamps the choice of using their benefits to purchase nutritional supplements providing vitamins and minerals, in the same way they are free to make other dietary choices. The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Nutrition and currently there is no companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

Background: The food stamp program is our country’s first line of defense against hunger and malnutrition. According to most recent statistics, more than 21 million low income Americans relied on the program to meet their nutritional needs. Currently, food stamps can be used to purchase junk food, sodas and candy, but not a multivitamin. Vitamin and mineral supplements are especially important for low-income individuals as a way to enhance nutrition, improve health, prevent disease, enhance quality of life, increase individual productivity, and slow the increase in our nation’s rising health care costs.

Requested Action: Support S. 1546

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