The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) — a coalition of more than 12,000 doctors — is urging the Republican Study Committee to include the organization’s Healthy Staples program into its 2019 budget resolution.
The Healthy Staples plan would help provide more fresh fruits and vegetables along with whole grains and beans to SNAP recipients (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), also known as food stamps. More than 40 million American families currently rely on SNAP.
Nearly half of all SNAP recipients are obese, says PCRM, a number twelve percent higher than nonparticipants at the same income level. The Healthy Staples program would make it easier for SNAP recipients to access whole foods. A plant-based diet focused on whole foods has been linked to a decreased risk of obesity, type-2 diabetes, and numerous other diet-related illnesses.
“Healthy Staples would subsidize participating grocers who supply basic healthful foods: grains, vegetables, beans, fruits, and basic multiple vitamins,” PCRM said in a statement. “SNAP participants choosing solely from Healthy Staples would likely get more than twice the fiber, iron, vitamin E, and folate; almost twice the potassium, calcium, and magnesium; almost 40 percent more vitamin D; and more than five times more beta-carotene than those following a typical American diet. A Healthy Staples participant would also consume 65 percent less fat and 85 percent less saturated fat, and the excess of 250 milligrams of cholesterol consumed daily would be reduced to essentially zero.”
PCRM says the program was inspired by the USDA’s Women, Infants and Children program (WIC). Its promotion of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains led to a decline in childhood obesity rates among participants, according to a recent study in JAMA Pediatrics. Children make up nearly half of SNAP participants, says PCRM.
“More than 150 members of Congress are essentially recommending that SNAP incorporate the Physicians Committee’s Healthy Staples plan to provide participants more fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes,” says Physicians Committee president Neal Barnard, M.D., F.A.C.C. “We applaud Republican Study Committee members and Republican Study Committee Chairman Rep. Mark Walker for including this critical nonpartisan reform in their budget resolution.”
Last month, musician and longtime vegan Moby penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal urging reform to the SNAP program to encourage more frequent purchases of healthy whole food ingredients instead of processed foods high in sugar, sodium, and saturated fat.
“Its costs are huge,” Moby wrote, “as are the added costs of treating diabetes, hypertension and other illnesses that poor eating habits cause.”