Our Take on the 2018 Farm Bill Draft
Here at Wholesome Wave, we know policy is a critical tool for changing the world through food—and that America’s biggest food policy tool of all is The Farm Bill. This $900-billion+ omnibus bill doesn’t just influence farming—it also houses the federal SNAP program (formerly know as Food Stamps), one of America's largest safety nets. The Farm bill is passed every five years and is up for renewal this year.
The last Farm Bill included $100 million to support nutrition incentives across the country (the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Program, or FINI), which helped spread our model from sea to shining sea, and helped millions of Americans afford fruits and vegetables. Now we're pleased to see $275 million in the proposed bill to expand this program. The renaming of the FINI program after Wholesome Wave's late Founding Board Chair, Gus Schumacher, is a testament to Gus's immense legacy.
As Gus knew, with the right legislation we can improve the economy, public health, and the environment—all through food.
Below, we share our CEO Michel Nischan's response to the initial draft of the 2018 Farm Bill. You’ll find his position on proposed changes to the SNAP program and more, including our support for the expanded FINI Program, Evaluation, and Information Center and our recommendation to introduce the Harvesting Health Pilot Program into the legislation, too.
We are very excited to see the commitment to the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive program—and thank the committee chair and members for proposing to rename the program the Gus Schumacher Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive program. We are fortunate to have had Gus as our Founding Board Chair and an integral member of Wholesome Wave’s leadership team. This is a fantastic way to honor his legacy and commitment to increasing access and affordability for under-served Americans.
The increased funding to $275 million over 5 years—and $600 million over 10— as well as the establishment of a permanent baseline for the program, recognizes the success and opportunities to continue reaching SNAP consumers through farmers markets and retailers. We’ve barely scratched the surface of that reach, and now we’ll have the continued support for innovation and mobile technology to expand that reach and improve millions of lives.
We’ve long believed that communicating across organizations and the sharing of best practices are critical components of ensuring high quality program delivery—for each and every program. That’s why we’ve been running the National Nutrition Incentive Network for the past 3 years, and have organized regular summits for FINI operators. The creation of the GS FINI Program Training, Evaluation, and Information Center is the highest recognition and complement of that approach and we are excited to see it be included in the proposal.
We are pleased to see the chair did not include the Harvest Box concept in this bill. While new and innovative ideas should always be considered, the concept as articulated would have created more challenges for those who already struggle to provide truly nutritious food for their families.
With any proposal of this size and reach, there are sections that we would like the committee to revisit and improve on. Adding veterans to the Farmers Market Nutrition Program, and increasing the funding for that important program, would be a great addition. Including the Harvesting Health Pilot Program would also be an improvement. Our fruit and vegetable prescription program makes it possible for low-income Americans to afford and consume more fruits and vegetables. Growing this program would allow current successes to be studied, measured, and expanded upon.
Lastly, we would request the removal of the new work requirements. Many SNAP consumers are working, and of those who aren’t, many were recently laid off and are looking for work. This proposal penalizes them when they need the government’s assistance the most.
We look forward to continuing the conversation and thank the chair for getting a draft out for review and comments.