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Karen K. Ehrens, Bismarck, Published August 23 2013

Letter: Quit delay, pass farm bill that will serve our people

For nearly 50 years, members of both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate recognized that linking eaters, who purchase food, to producers, who grow (and eat) food, was a means to pass a farm bill. However, the House passed a farm bill that did not include nutrition programs, severing that connection. And the House is threatening to make $40 billion in cuts to those crucial nutrition programs, which include SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and its accompanying nutrition education program, SNAP Ed.

I do not believe that the people looking to make these massive cuts to nutrition have really looked at potential long-term effects or considered who is receiving SNAP benefits: 83 percent of all benefits go to households with a child, senior, or a person with disabilities.

Not having regular access to enough nutritious food for a healthy life (food insecurity) has large and long-term influences on health. Children who don’t have enough to eat are more likely to be hospitalized and face a greater risk for health problems such as asthma and depression. Adults who don’t have enough to eat are more likely to have heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. Unfortunately, even right here in North Dakota, there are about 56,000 people, including more than 9,200 of our children, who are dealing with food insecurity.

SNAP is like a prescription for better health – it decreases the likelihood a young child will be sick, underweight or developmentally at risk. Children from low-income families who do have access to SNAP are less likely to experience obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes as adults. SNAP also helps families afford other essential needs such as rent and transportation.

SNAP-Ed helps all of us make the most of the investment we make in the SNAP program. Healthy eating is a learned skill; SNAP-Ed teaches this skill and has a lifelong impact on health.

And so I would ask the House, including Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., to consider the long-term effects of a farm bill without nutrition. Work across the aisle like Sens. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D. Link eaters and producers. Ensure security for our agricultural producers so that we can continue to experience national security. Ensure better health. Get it done; pass a farm bill for the people.

Ehrens, Bismarck, is a health and nutrition consultant and policy advocate.