The 2023 Farm Bill, summarized here by the Congressional Research Service, has begun the reauthorization process. With nearly 11 percent of households reporting that they often or sometimes do not have enough to eat (U.S. Census Bureau 2023), this legislation can significantly improve the health and well-being of millions of Americans by protecting and securing their access to healthy food. Programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) not only reduce incidence of food-related chronic illnesses like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes (Carlson & Llobrera 2022) but also help strengthen community health by ensuring families have access to the food they need to thrive and grow. A robust evidence base demonstrates that nutrition security improves school readiness and achievement (Jyoti et al. 2005), is vital to early childhood development (Drennen et al. 2019), reduces health care costs, and improves productivity (USDA 2023).
Grantmakers In Health (GIH) firmly believes a Farm Bill that prioritizes a wholistic approach addressing both the roots causes of nutrition insecurity and the immediate needs of communities is of paramount importance to health and can lead to better health for all. GIH prioritized eliminating nutrition insecurity in our recently issued policy agenda (GIH 2023), and we believe that health philanthropy has an important role to play in catalyzing public-private partnerships to ensure the fullest implementation of the Bill. Our position on the 2023 Farm Bill aligns with the recommendations of the National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity (NANA) which prioritizes nutrition security by:
- Reducing barriers to accessing SNAP benefits. Millions of families rely on SNAP for sustained access to the nutritious foods they need to thrive and be productive members of society. Many of the COVID-19 waivers, such as expanding SNAP coverage for college students, proved to be highly successful in reducing nutrition insecurity and should be made permanent. Work requirements—including those recently adopted as part of the debt ceiling package that raise the age limit from 49 to 54 for able bodied adults without dependents—are counterproductive and often impede individuals and families from moving away from reliance on SNAP. The new work requirement expansion, for example, is projected to take benefits away from about 225,000 persons between the ages of 50 and 54 (Bergh & Rosenbaum 2023).
- Increasing funding for equitable access to fresh, healthy food by improving existing nutrition programs like the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP). Based on the work health philanthropy helped to pioneer across the country, GusNIP is an evidence-based intervention that significantly increases access to healthy food. Adequate funding of the program and overhauling the match requirement to be more flexible and less onerous are critical to achieving better access to healthy food.
- Supporting emergency food providers in accessing fresh, culturally appropriate healthy foods. Food banks and other emergency food providers represent an important resource for millions of families across the nation who are falling through the frayed social safety net. However, these charitable emergency food providers are often torn between competing priorities like addressing hunger and providing appropriate nutrition. Congress should better assist these providers to purchase foods that are culturally appropriate and conform to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans through The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP).
- Improving nutrition education. The SNAP Nutrition Education Program (SNAP–Ed) is a critical vehicle for educating families and communities and better connecting them with important, culturally appropriate resources. SNAP-Ed should be expanded and prioritize efforts that advance equity and inclusion, such as grants to minority-serving institutions and using media that are culturally responsive and sensitive to diverse audiences.
- Investing in research and evaluation. The federal government can play a vital role in funding innovations and measuring the return on investment of nutrition programs in the Farm Bill. Congress should prioritize investments in program evaluation, surveillance, and reporting systems that will provide the data necessary to fine-tune existing and future nutrition programs.
Health grantmakers have a significant role to play in ensuring these and other priorities ultimately improve nutrition security in our communities. GIH encourages funders to convene diverse stakeholders and help bridge, coordinate, and align competing priorities across sectors. Grantmakers can also provide direct support to advocacy and grassroots organizations, especially those from low-income and rural areas and communities of color, to ensure their concerns are more prominent in policy discussions. GIH also encourages health funders to seek opportunities for public-private partnerships to support the implementation of the Farm Bill and assist stakeholders in accessing Farm Bill grants and programs.
Bergh, Kate and Dottie Rosenbaum. Debt Ceiling Agreement’s SNAP Changes Would Increase Hunger and Poverty for Many Older Low-Income People; New Exemptions Would Help Some Others. Washington, DC: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, May 31, 2023.
Carlson, Steven and Joseph Llobrera. SNAP Is Linked with Improved Health Outcomes and Lower Health Care Costs. Washington, DC: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, December 14, 2022.
Drennen, Chloe R. et al. “Food Insecurity, Health, and Development in Children Under Age Four Years.” Pediatrics. 144, no. 4 (2019): e20190824.
Grantmakers In Health (GIH). 2023 Grantmakers In Health Policy Priorities. Washington, DC: January 2023.
Jyoti, Diana F., Edward A. Frongillo, and Sonya J. Jones. “Food Insecurity Affects School Children’s Academic Performance, Weight Gain, and Social Skills.” The Journal of Nutrition. 135, no. 12 (2005): 2831-2839.
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food and Nutrition Service. “Food and Nutrition Security.” Accessed May 9, 2023.
Grantmakers In Health (GIH) is a nonprofit, educational organization dedicated to helping foundations, corporate giving programs, and other philanthropic organizations improve the health of all people. Its mission is to foster communication and collaboration among grantmakers and others and to help strengthen the grantmaking community’s knowledge, skills, and effectiveness. GIH develops programming, provides technical assistance, and hosts convenings to help funders learn, connect, and grow.