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Press Release

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Encourages SNAP Changes to Increase Access to Healthy Foods

2013-11-08

Improvements should align with Dietary Guidelines recommendations while improving program integrity.

Media Contacts: Ryan O'Malley, Allison MacMunn
800/877-1600, ext. 4769, 4802 media@eatright.org

CHICAGO – The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics commends recent efforts by the United States Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service to lay the foundation for increasing access to healthy, nutritious foods in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and to improve the program's integrity.

FNS is working to improve the eligibility requirements for SNAP retailers to better ensure participants have access to healthy foods, while also strengthening the SNAP program's integrity and minimizing misuse. The Academy encourages FNS to expand the stocking requirements to include healthier foods that more closely align with the recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

"These changes, along with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Education or SNAP-Ed, position struggling families and communities across America to lead healthier lives," said registered dietitian nutritionist and Academy President Dr. Glenna McCollum.

"By ensuring that SNAP retailers carry a larger variety of healthier food items, we increase SNAP recipients' access to more nutritious options," McCollum said. "Research shows that program integrity is positively correlated with stores that provide sufficient access to healthy foods. Therefore, requiring stores to carry more foods that align with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans will lead to increased access to healthy foods, and also reduce abuse of the system."

USDA recently has made significant strides to improve the integrity of SNAP and minimize misuse of the program.

"Increasing nutritious selections in stores that redeem SNAP benefits is essential to the well-being of SNAP families since they typically come from struggling communities where malnutrition is evident," McCollum said. "These vulnerable populations disproportionately suffer from poor health and preventable diseases, such as obesity and diabetes. By increasing access to healthy foods – like whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and low-fat dairy options – people will be able to make healthier choices more easily."

Providing SNAP participants with effective education to compliment these changes is essential, which is why the Academy urges Congress to adequately fund the highly effective SNAP-Ed program in the Farm Bill currently being debated. SNAP-Ed provides the answers to assist families with purchasing, cooking and storing food to maximize their budget and their nutrient intake.

"Combining access with education is critical to help Americans make the right choices for their families,” McCollum said.

To implement new stocking requirements, stores will need training, support and technical assistance. "We look forward to working with USDA to improve nutrition with this innovative initiative," McCollum said. "Registered dietitian nutritionists are ideal partners to provide expertise to retailers as they stock a greater supply of affordable, healthy foods. Consider us your partners to a healthier lifestyle."

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All registered dietitians are nutritionists – but not all nutritionists are registered dietitians. The Academy’s Board of Directors and Commission on Dietetic Registration have determined that those who hold the credential registered dietitian (RD) may optionally use “registered dietitian nutritionist” (RDN) instead. The two credentials have identical meanings.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) is the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. The Academy is committed to improving the nation’s health and advancing the profession of dietetics through research, education and advocacy. Visit the Academy at www.eatright.org.