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Published September 09, 2013, 10:13 AM

Tell House members to pass farm bill

For nearly 50 years, members of both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate recognized that linking consumers, who buy food, to producers, who grow food, was a means to an end with benefits to both.

By: Karen Ehrens, Agweek

BISMARCK, N.D. — For nearly 50 years, members of both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate recognized that linking consumers, who buy food, to producers, who grow food, was a means to an end with benefits to both.

But the U.S. House passed a farm bill that did not include nutrition programs, breaking that link. And the House now is threatening to propose $40 billion in cuts to those crucial nutrition programs, which include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) and its accompanying nutrition education program, SNAP Ed.

I don’t believe that the people looking to make these massive cuts really have looked at potential long-term impacts or considered who is receiving SNAP benefits. Some 83 percent of all benefits go to households with a child, senior or disabled person.

Like ripples from a fish jumping in Lake Sakakawea, the cuts’ effects would spread, affecting life far into the future and including impacts on health.

Food insecurity — that is, the state of not having regular access to enough nutritious food for a healthy life — has large and long-term effects on health.

Children who don’t have enough to eat are more likely to be hospitalized and face a greater risk for health problems such as asthma and depression. Adults who don’t have enough to eat are more likely to have heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Unfortunately, even in North Dakota there are about 56,000 people — including more than 9,200 children — who are dealing with food insecurity.

But with access to SNAP, low-income children are less likely to have problems such as obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes as adults, research shows.

SNAP is like a prescription for better health: It decreases the likelihood a young child will be sick, underweight or developmentally at risk.

SNAP helps children and families stay healthy and afford other essential needs such as rent and transportation.

SNAP-Ed helps all of us make the most of the investment we make in the SNAP program.

Healthy eating is a learned skill; SNAP-Ed teaches this skill and has a lifelong impact on health.

I would ask the House, including Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., to consider the long-term effects of failing to pass a comprehensive farm bill that includes nutrition program funding.

I urge Cramer and other House members to work across the aisle like our North Dakota senators, John Hoeven and Heidi Heitkamp.

Link consumers and producers. Ensure security for our agricultural producers so we can continue to enjoy national security. Ensure better health.

Get it done. Pass a farm bill for the people.

Editors note: Ehrens is a health and nutrition consultant, registered dietitian, and policy advocate in Bismark, N.D.

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