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Nutrition Education on the Chopping Block

PHOTO: Nutrition education programs could be on the chopping block as Congress takes up the Farm Bill this month. Photo credit: Share our Strength
PHOTO: Nutrition education programs could be on the chopping block as Congress takes up the Farm Bill this month. Photo credit: Share our Strength
May 7, 2013

ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Programs that teach low-income families about healthy food choices could be on the chopping block as Congress takes up the Farm Bill over the next few weeks. A U.S. Senate committee this week considers significant cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly referred to as food stamps, and a House committee will vote on even bigger cutbacks later this month.

The committees are also considering the elimination of SNAP education programs, such as the "Cooking Matters" nutrition education classes that have served thousands of families in Maryland.

According to Janet McLaughlin, senior director of Share Our Strength's Cooking Matters program, those classes matter.

"Given the size of the investment we're making in SNAP, it only makes sense we are investing in the education side as well, so we can be sure those benefits are being used as wisely as possible," she said.

While some critics have argued SNAP contributes to the nation's obesity problem, McLaughlin says studies show families that take part in nutrition education supported by SNAP make healthier choices, such as drinking more dairy products instead of other beverages and eating more green leafy vegetables.

Through classes and trips to the grocery store, McLaughlin said, Cooking Matters instructors teach low-income people how to recognize the most nutritious foods.

"How to prepare them in ways that are appealing for their families, how to compare unit pricing at the grocery story, how to identify what truly is a whole-grain product," are among the lessons to be learned, she said.

The USDA reports more than 760,000 Marylanders are receiving assistance through SNAP. That SNAP participation report is at fns.usda.gov.

Alison Burns, Public News Service - MD