Food Equality Initiative spent several days last week in Washington, D.C. participating in the National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference. We engaged with legislators, advocates, and food assistance organizations on the special needs of patients with food allergies and celiac disease.
Focused on ending the meal gap in patients with food allergies and celiac disease, Food Equality Initiative is leading access to “free-from” foods through our nutrition assistance program in Kansas City. However, we know far too many patients across the country make the difficult choice between hunger and health due to the lack of access and affordability of nutritious “free-from” foods. What does food policy have to do with access and affordability?
While food labeling laws remain a priority for most in the food allergy and celiac communities, food label laws are not the only policies that assist patients in accessing safe foods. Many Americans must rely on federal nutrition programs (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, School Lunch Program, The Special Supplemental Program for Women Infants and Children and more) to feed their families. Many of these programs are governed by policies authorized in the Farm bill and the Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR). Policies in these bills can restrict or limit patients with food allergies or celiac diseases ability to purchase appropriate nutritious foods.
Most recently, the USDA has proposed updates to SNAP that would include a $150 billion dollar cut to the program over 10 years. This would be done partially by reducing the cash value benefit and providing recipients with a commodity box commonly called, America’s Harvest Box. The commodity box would account for $130 million in savings.
While this proposal is designed to save money, it would be devastating to low income patients with food allergies or celiac disease. SNAP recipients with special diets would have reduced buying power to purchase medically appropriate foods, including fresh produce. Instead, half of their benefit would now consist of commodity foods chosen for nutritional value such as peanut butter, pasta, cereals, shelf-stable milk, canned meat and juice. Many foods that contain common allergens and gluten. This plan will only contribute to food waste, and increased health disparities in food allergy and celiac disease due to food access.
Hunger is a health issue that directly impacts our community. To eat is to live. We must rally together to strengthen access to to safe foods for all. Martin Luther King said, “Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through contentious struggle.” Our community is powerful when we raise our collective voices together. Join our National Action Committee and raise your voice and support food access.