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Senators want data on how SNAP money is spent

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Two U.S. Senators are backing a bill that would require the government to collect data on how people who participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program spend their food money.

SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, provides food benefits to low-income families. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service runs the program along with the 50 states. States distribute the benefits.

U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, and Cory Booker, D-NJ, introduced the SNAP Nutrition Security Act to help improve SNAP recipients’ diet quality and collect data on SNAP purchases to identify what products taxpayer dollars are being spent on.

The bill would require tracking and reporting on how SNAP benefits are used, including what food participants buy.

“In the midst of America’s obesity crisis, taxpayer dollars shouldn’t be spent on junk food,” Rubio said in a statement. “This legislation would strengthen the SNAP program by requiring the USDA to collect data on the impact of SNAP. This data will provide a clearer picture of how SNAP can be used to improve recipient’s health and ensure the program promotes a healthy, nutritious diet.”

Booker said such data was needed.

“SNAP plays a crucial role in alleviating poverty and food insecurity, but needs to do better at improving nutrition security and diet quality for program participants,” Booker said in a statement. “We need timely, comprehensive data to determine SNAP’s impact on nutrition security and diet quality in order to effectively promote access to nutritious food, improve the well-being of SNAP recipients, and help address our nation’s alarming increase in chronic diet-related diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.”

The bill would require reports on food security, nutrition, diet quality and other metrics. The goal would be to evaluate SNAP recipients’ diet quality and collect data on SNAP purchases to identify what products taxpayer dollars are being spent on.

The American Heart Association is on board with the plan.

“What we eat and drink matter to our heart and brain health,” said Mark Schoeberl, executive vice president of advocacy at the American Heart Association. “The SNAP Nutrition Security Act of 2023 would help ensure that programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program can adequately track and measure the availability, accessibility and affordability of nutritious foods, making a healthy diet a reality for more people across the country.”

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