Congressman Matt Cartwright

Representing the 17th District of Pennsylvania
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Cartwright and DeLauro Introduce Legislation to Encourage the Purchase of Healthy Foods by SNAP Participants

Jun 19, 2014
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Representatives Matt Cartwright (PA-17) and Rosa DeLauro (CT-03) introduced the Vegetables Are Really Important Eating Tools for You (VARIETY) Act in order to expand the Healthy Incentives Pilot (HIP) to the entirety of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). 

HIP, which operated in Hampden County, Massachusetts from November 2011 through April 2013, encouraged the purchase of healthy foods for SNAP participants, refunding them with 30 cents for every dollar they spent on fruits and vegetables on their SNAP Electronic Benefit Transfer card.  This incentive program successfully generated a 25 percent increase in the consumption of fruits and vegetables, highlighting the positive impact that promoting healthy food choices can have on SNAP beneficiaries. 

“SNAP recipients have limited access to fruits and vegetables due to recent price increases in healthy foods.  Our bill aims to broaden the benefits of HIP to all SNAP participants by empowering low-income citizens to purchase more healthy foods for themselves and their families,” Rep. Cartwright said.  “We must ensure that the people in our country are adequately fed, and even further, have access to resources that sustain a healthy lifestyle, regardless of their income.  VARIETY will revamp SNAP by targeting the supplemental benefits towards healthy foods.”

“SNAP is one of America’s most vital and successful anti-hunger programs. Put simply, it helps feed hungry people,” said Rep. DeLauro. “But current benefits are insufficient for many families to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, leading to a double-edged sword where those same families are battling malnutrition and obesity. Families struggling economically have a harder time affording healthy food options. Over 46 million Americans, almost half of them children, use food stamps in a given year, but health conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure cost our country billions of dollars in health care spending. The VARIETY Act will help address both of those problems.”

According to the Harvard School of Public Health, increased fruit and vegetable intake can help reduce rates of heart disease and prevent several cancers, which are major causes of death in the United States and huge contributors to the national health care economic burden.  This legislation works to tackle these issues by making fruits and vegetables not only more appealing, but also more accessible to our most vulnerable population. 

Shape Up America!, American Nurses Association, the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine, and the Food Research and Action Center have endorsed this legislation.

“Studies show that diets rich in fruits and vegetables reduce risk for chronic disease, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and even Alzheimer’s disease, that disproportionately impact low-income Americans,” said Neal Barnard, M.D., president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine—a nutrition advocacy group of more than 10,000 doctors which advocates for good health through good nutrition. “This bill is backed by the science to encourage healthier eating and provides necessary support to ensure low-income Americans are able to afford as many healthful options as everyone else.”