Republicans Eye SNAP Junk Food Restrictions In Government Funding Standoff

WASHINGTON — The subsequent authorities shutdown struggle may be a meals struggle.

Republicans may win a crackdown on junk meals within the federal authorities’s flagship diet program in laws Congress must go this week to forestall a partial authorities shutdown on Friday.

Democrats oppose including dietary restrictions to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, however they’re keen to spice up funding in a smaller program that helps pregnant ladies and nursing moms purchase nutritious meals, so a deal is at hand.

Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) has proposed asking states to check out limiting SNAP advantages to “only nutrient-dense foods and beverages,” that means no soda or sweet. Data means that sweetened drinks are a main expenditure for households receiving SNAP advantages.

Harris, a member of the House committee that writes funding payments, has argued limiting SNAP spending on junk meals may fight the weight problems epidemic and doubtlessly save the federal government cash.

“If SNAP more effectively addressed nutrition, it could help reduce the prevalence of obesity, which in turn would lower healthcare costs in the U.S. and help address the country’s long-term fiscal challenges,” Harris wrote in a joint op-ed with Angela Rachidi, from the conservative American Enterprise Institute, earlier this yr. “An important first step is to restrict sweetened beverages from SNAP.”

More than 20 million households obtain month-to-month SNAP advantages, averaging $363, that may be redeemed at grocery shops for nearly any meals merchandise. It’s one of many federal authorities’s most responsive and best-known anti-poverty applications.

The Harris proposal requires pilot tasks testing a junk meals ban in at the least one state, however not more than 5.

Democrats are additionally angling for a diet coverage change, particularly extra funding for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, generally often called WIC. Politico’s Meredith Lee Hill first reported earlier this month that the framework of a USDA funding invoice with the SNAP and WIC modifications is underneath evaluation by get together leaders. Spokespeople for management declined to touch upon Monday.

Unlike SNAP, which robotically receives funding to fulfill enrollment, the WIC program wants annual appropriations from lawmakers. The Biden administration has stated it faces a $1 billion shortfall this yr that would jeopardize advantages for its 6 million recipients.

“Many states would likely implement waiting lists for applicants to reduce costs,” the Agriculture Department warned in January. The White House has pushed for the funding since August.

With the federal government funding deadline quick approaching, and underneath strain from Democrats to keep away from a shutdown, House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) complained on social media Sunday night that “many of the points still being debated come from new Democrat demands,” in an obvious reference to the request for WIC funding.

It’s doable Johnson may use restrictions on SNAP advantages as a conservative coverage win to placate far-right House Republicans who dislike bipartisan spending agreements. Last yr, Republicans received modest modifications to SNAP’s “work requirements” as a part of a deal to permit the federal authorities to pay its money owed.

Republicans have proposed dietary restrictions in SNAP for years with out a lot luck. Anti-poverty teams and the meals business alike oppose the federal government choosing winners and losers in poor individuals’s purchasing carts. (The WIC program, in contrast, already operates with intensive diet guidelines.)

“The government will need to categorize more than 600,000 products and update the list each year with thousands more products,” the National Grocers Association stated in a letter to lawmakers final week. “Grocery store cashiers will become the food police, telling parents what they can and cannot feed their families.”