Known as the supplemental nutrition assistance program, or SNAP for short, this federal program is designed to promote healthy eating by providing shoppers incentives, such as discounts or gift cards, for purchasing food items, including dairy. Around 40 million low-income Americans receive SNAP benefits, and more than 250,000 retailers are authorized to accept SNAP benefits.
A bipartisan bill introduced by congressmen Jim Costa and Nick Langworthy aims to expand the access to dairy products in a bid to boost dairy intake and support farmers in California. According to the US Department of Agriculture, 90% of Americans do not get enough dairy as part of their diet. The bill is endorsed by the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), National Milk Producers Federation, and National Grocers Association (NGA).
The full text of the bill, known as the Dairy Incentives Program Act, is yet to be published on congress.gov, but according to its title, it aims to ‘amend the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 to establish a dairy nutrition incentive program, and for other purposes’.
Specifically, the bill is seeking to expand the current Healthy Fluid Milk Incentives (HFMI) program to include additional dairy products, such as cheese and yogurt.
The HFMI is a milk incentives program introduced in the 2018 Farm Bill. Through grants, it allows participants to explore ways to increase the amount of milk SNAP households purchase by providing an incentive at authorized stores. But the program currently has provisions for unsweetened and unflavored low-fat or fat-free pasteurized fluid cow’s milk products only.
The IDFA, which helped introduce HFMI in 2018, says the new Dairy Incentives Program Act would enhance the existing HFMI program’s scope by including whole and reduced-fat milk as well as cheese and yogurt. The bill incorporates recommendations, observations, and evaluation findings from current HFMI projects, respectively from the Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty, Auburn University’s Hunger Solutions Institute, and the USDA, the IDFA added.
If the proposed changes are adopted, SNAP recipients would receive ‘dollar-for-dollar match’ in the shape of coupons or rebates for the purchase of dairy products as part of HFMI projects.
Michael Dykes, D.V.M., president and CEO of IDFA, described milk, cheese and yogurt as ‘nutritional powerhouses’ that promote a range of health benefits. “IDFA applauds Reps. Costa and Langworthy for their leadership on the Dairy Nutrition Incentives Program Act of 2023, which would greatly improve access to these nutritious products for SNAP participants,” Dykes commented. “In this time of chronic food insecurity, it is critical that we increase access to foods that nourish and promote good health and well-being, particularly for our nation’s most vulnerable people.”
Congressman Costa, who is also a ranking member of the Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Subcommittee, said: “Dairy products provide vital nutrients to maintain a healthy diet and strong bone density. But the lack of access and consumption are impeding positive health outcomes for Americans of all ages. Our bipartisan legislation will change that by expanding incentives to purchase products like cheese and yogurt while supporting dairy farmers in the San Joaquin Valley and nationwide.”
Congressman Langworthy added: “I’m proud to join congressman Costa to introduce this legislation to expand access to dairy products and promote the long-term health of Americans. This effort will help to put healthy dairy options from farms in Western New York on more dinner tables.”