Biden Administration budget request includes boosts to food safety, nutrition programs

By Lauren Nardella

- Last updated on GMT

Source: Getty/erdikocak
Source: Getty/erdikocak

Related tags SNAP food insecurity school meals Food safety

President Biden’s FY 2024 budget request would increase funding for FDA and USDA and make investments in food safety and nutrition programs, but is far from a done deal given a divisive Congress.

Released March 9, the budget offers lawmakers a blueprint of the President’s priorities and initiatives and looks to strengthen FDA’s regulatory authority over food and prioritize access to nutritious food through USDA programs.

Overall, the budget provides $7.2 billion for FDA, including a $372 million, or 10%, increase in budget authority from FY2023.

That includes a $128 million investment in food safety and nutrition modernization, “demonstrating the Administration’s ongoing commitment to these responsibilities,” according to a fact sheet.

Per FDA, the budget complements the new vision for the agency’s Human Foods Program resulting from the Reagan-Udall Foundation’s external review and an internal review of the infant formula supply chain response.

“Building on lessons learned from the infant formula supply chain response, the budget includes funding to modernize infant formula oversight and strengthen efforts to respond to shortages of critical foods, empower consumers to make healthier food choices and reduce exposure to toxic chemicals in the food supply,” FDA says in its budget justification.

‘Modernizing oversight’

FDA requests $64 million of budget authority for its Healthy and Safe Food for All initiative, which would “modernize oversight of infant formula, empower consumers to make healthier food choices [and] reduce exposure to toxic chemicals,” among other projects.

It also asks for $12 million for strengthening nutrition and labeling, $37 million to strengthen data access and analysis capabilities and food safety inspection capabilities, and $5 million for food supply chain continuity investments to strengthen FDA’s ability to assess supply chain health and respond to critical food shortages.

Further, the budget request includes $5 million for “emerging chemical and toxicological issues,” which would update the agency’s approach for chemicals directly added as food ingredients and those present through food contact.

Legislative efforts proposed

Also as part of the budget request, FDA released a number of legislative proposals “that better support agency efforts to protect American consumers and patients.”

Presently, the agency says it has limited tools to reduce exposure to toxic elements in the food supply. In one proposal, FDA looks to amend the Federal Food Drug & Cosmetic Act to grant the agency new authority to establish contamination limits in foods, including food consumed by infants and children.

As part of another proposal, the agency wants to amend the FD&C Act to require the food industry to conduct toxic element testing of food products marketed for infants and young children and maintain those records for FDA to access whenever necessary.

“This new authority would help FDA understand levels of toxic elements in such products, allow FDA to monitor industry progress in reducing levels of these toxic elements over time, and identify where FDA should devote more time and resources to better protect infants and young children,” the agency says.

Nutrition programs prioritized

For USDA, the budget requests $32 billion for Child Nutrition Programs “that help kids meet their nutritional needs,” and proposes more state and school participation in healthy and free school meal programs, at a $15 billion cost over 10 years.

The funding would also be used “to improve health outcomes and reduce diet-related disease,” key goals of the 2022 White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health.

The agency looks to build on the success of programs from the American Rescue Plan, and proposes funding of $122 billion for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, $6.3 billion for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, $100 million for the Emergency Food Assistance Program and $165 million for the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations.

USDA emphasized the opportunity at hand for the 2023 Farm Bill to “improve the health and well-being of Americans” through reauthorization of programs such as SNAP.

“This is an important moment to reconsider strengthening cross enrollment capabilities across Federal assistance programs and eliminating barriers to food assistance for vulnerable groups,” the agency said.

Nonprofits approve of proposed benefits

Feeding America applauded USDA budget provisions that would invest in TEFAP and SNAP.

“This budget invests in a brighter future for individuals, families and our nation by strengthening federal nutrition programs that help millions of people put food on the table,” Feeding America says.

TEFAP investments would assist food banks in meeting food assistance needs, including storage and distribution, and the proposal would boost SNAP by advocating for the Farm Bill to increase funding and remove enrollment barriers, according to Feeding America.

The potential reauthorization of SNAP was also hailed by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

“While some congressional Republicans have called for deep cuts in SNAP, the President’s budget calls for a farm bill that eliminates barriers to food assistance for vulnerable groups and moves the nation toward the goal of ensuring everyone has access to healthy, affordable food,” said CBPP President Sharon Parrott.

The Food Research and Action Center additionally cheered provisions in the budget, especially support for WIC and school meals.

“Investments in federal nutrition programs and other social programs are critical to mitigating America’s deepening hunger crisis, which has only been exacerbated by the loss of pandemic interventions, including free school meals for all children and temporary SNAP boosts,” FRAC said.

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