June 18, 2013In Letter to Congress, Mayors Support Funding for Food Stamps and Offer Ideas to Strengthen Program
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and 17 mayors from cities across the country today wrote to Members of Congress to outline the importance of maintaining funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps). SNAP is a critical program for 47 million Americans, particularly children and seniors, who rely on food stamps to protect against hunger and poverty during periods of financial hardship. The proposed Farm Bill on the floor of the House of Representatives this week would cut over $20 billion from SNAP, severely impacting the ability of these vulnerable families to put nutritious meals on the table. Instead of cutting benefits for these families, Congress should look at ways to strengthen the SNAP program. They should test and evaluate approaches that would limit SNAP’s subsidization of products, such as sugar-sweetened beverages, that are contributing disproportionately to obesity and instead provide incentives to promote healthful eating through the consumption of fruits and vegetables. In New York City more than $4 billion is spent annually on health care costs related to obesity and the SNAP program should be at the forefront of promoting good nutrition. Congress should also strengthen SNAP by partnering with state and local governments to enhance anti-fraud efforts among SNAP retailers. This will ensure that taxpayer dollars are being used for SNAP benefits and not lining the pockets of fraudulent retailers.
“The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is an important resource for those in times of need,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “And the key word is nutrition. We need to find ways to strengthen the program and promote good nutrition while limiting the use of these resources for items with no nutritional value, like sugary drinks, that are actually harming the health of participants. The program already, and appropriately, does not allow purchases of tobacco or alcohol – why should we continue supporting unhealthy purchases in the false name of nutrition assistance?”
Text of letter below and attached as PDF
Dear Speaker Boehner and Minority Leader Pelosi:
As you resume your consideration of the Farm Bill, we write regarding our concern about proposed cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which provides essential food support to families and individuals across the country. As the mayors of major cities across the United States, we see the impact that poverty and poor health have on our most vulnerable residents, and we recognize the role that the SNAP program has played in mitigating these challenges. We urge you to maintain funding for this program and also to consider our suggestions for its improvement.
Today, approximately 47 million Americans, more than half of whom are children and seniors, rely on this program, in many cases during transitional periods of hardship. If enacted, the proposed deep cuts to SNAP would undermine the program’s role as a buffer against both food insecurity and poverty – a role that the program should play for all those who can demonstrate the appropriate level of economic need, including the formerly incarcerated who have already paid their debt to society.
We also believe the program can do more to address the pressing challenge of obesity and diet-related disease. More than one third of American adults are now obese, costing approximately $147 billion per year in associated medical expenses. As a result of obesity, this generation of American children is the first to face the possibility of a shorter life expectancy than their parents. It is time to test and evaluate approaches limiting SNAP’s subsidization of products, such as sugar-sweetened beverages, that are contributing to obesity. At the same time, SNAP can also promote healthful eating by providing incentives for the consumption of fruits and vegetables by SNAP recipients, similar to the programs which have been successfully piloted in many of our cities that provide additional spending power to recipients who use their benefits at farmers markets.
Finally, SNAP can also be strengthened by Congressional support for state- and local-level antifraud efforts aimed at retailers, to ensure public confidence that food stamp dollars are getting to those in need.
There could not be a more critical time for Congress to create a Farm Bill that protects our nutrition assistance programs and is responsive to the mounting crisis of diet-related disease that we are facing. In our cities we are working to ensure that all of our residents have access to healthy foods and to reduce health disparities across populations. Our ability to advance these goals will be significantly impacted by the next Farm Bill. We believe that your objectives of fiscal responsibility and a healthy future can be met while protecting the most vulnerable and strengthening the nation’s most significant nutrition assistance program.
Thank you for your consideration.
Mayor of Salt Lake City Ralph Becker, Mayor of New York City Michael R. Bloomberg Mayor of Newark Cory Booker, Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel, Mayor of Louisville Greg Fischer, Mayor of Portland Charlie Hales, Mayor of San Francisco Edwin E. Lee, Mayor of Seattle Michael McGinn, Mayor of Boston Thomas M. Menino, Mayor of Philadelphia Michael A. Nutter, Mayor of Oakland Jean Quan, Mayor of Baltimore Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Mayor of Minneapolis R.T. Rybak, Mayor of St. Louis Francis G. Slay, Mayor Madison Paul R. Soglin, Mayor of Phoenix Greg Stanton, Mayor of Providence Angel Taveras, Mayor of Los Angeles Antonio R. Villaraigosa
Marc LaVorgna / Samantha Levine