Morning Must Read: House Plan Would Cost 5 Million Americans Needed Food Assistance

Chris Lilienthal |

Legislation before the U.S. House would eliminate about 5.1 million people from a federal program that provides nutrition assistance to eligible, low-income individuals and families, according to a new report by the Health Impact Project, a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Pew Charitable Trusts.

The House-proposed cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, would undermine the ability of low-income households to feed their families and increase poverty, the researchers found.

The New York Times has more:

The combination of poverty and a lack of food would lead to increases in illnesses like heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure among adults, the study found. In children, the cuts would lead to higher rates of asthma and depression. Diabetes alone could increase federal and state health care costs by nearly $15 billion over the next 10 years, the report found.

“The SNAP program has implications for health, and we wanted to make sure that health is part of the debate,” said Dr. Aaron Wernham, the director of the project. “There is a large body of public health research which shows how food insecurity affects health.”

SNAP enrollment has grown in Pennsylvania since the onset of the recession in December 2007 — responding exactly as intended in an economic downturn. SNAP continues to provide nutrition support to more than 1.8 million Pennsylvanians, including nearly 725,000 children, offering a crucial bridge as our economy struggles to fully recover. Without SNAP, families throughout the commonwealth — a majority of whom are working but earn low wages — would be unable to put food on the table.

The new study comes as Congress is working to pass legislation that sets funding levels for farm subsidies and nutrition assistance. After a House farm bill that cut SNAP by $20.5 billion failed to pass in June, the House passed a “farm-only” farm bill without reauthorizing SNAP. The $20.5 billion cut is what the Health Impact Project used as a baseline for its study.

The study also comes as the U.S. House Budget Committee plans to hold a hearing today examining the progress made in the U.S. effort to fight poverty over the last 50 years.