Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program [“Food Stamps”]: Examining the Evidence to Define Benefit Adequacy

English: Logo of the .

English: Logo of the . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The USDA asked the IOM and the National Research Council to consider whether it is feasible to objectively define the adequacy of SNAP allotments that meet the program goals and, if so, to outline the data and analyses needed to support and evidence-based assessment of SNAP adequacy.


Conclusions include:


  • The adequacy of SNAP allotments can be defined
  • The adequacy of SNAP allotments is influenced by individual, household,and environmental factors
    •  Unprocessed foods are the cheapest, yet many do not have the time to “cook from scratch”
    • Food prices vary among regions. While SNAP allotments are adjusted, not enough data to show this is working.
    • Nutrition education seems to be working, but evidence is insufficient.
  • The adequacy of SNAP allotments is influenced by program characteristics. The maximum monthly benefit,benefit reduction rate, and net income calculation have important impacts on SNAP allotments.[See this fact sheet for explanations of these terms]


And the Recommendations


“The committee offers its recommendations in three areas

  • First, it recommends elements that should be included by USDA-FNS in an evidence-based, objective definition and measurement of the adequacy of SNAP allotments.
  • Second, it recommends monitoring and assessment of the adequacy of SNAP allotments that is needed for evaluation and adjustment over time.
  • Third, it recommends additional research and data needed to support an evidence-based definition of allotment adequacy.
  • In addition, the committee describes other research considerations that would further understanding of allotment adequacy.




[This image is basically unreadable if smaller!, it was copied from the summary of the report]

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From the summary of the report at


For many Americans who live at or below the poverty threshold, access to healthy foods at a reasonable price is a challenge that often places a strain on already limited resources and may compel them to make food choices that are contrary to current nutritional guidance.

To help alleviate this problem, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) administers a number of nutrition assistance programs designed to improve access to healthy foods for low-income individuals and households. The largest of these programs is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly called the Food Stamp Program, which today serves more than 46 million Americans with a program cost in excess of $75 billion annually. The goals of SNAP include raising the level of nutrition among low-income households and maintaining adequate levels of nutrition by increasing the food purchasing power of low-income families.

In response to questions about whether there are different ways to define the adequacy of SNAP allotments consistent with the program goals of improving food security and access to a healthy diet, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) asked the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to conduct a study to examine the feasibility of defining the adequacy of SNAP allotments, specifically:

  • the feasibility of establishing an objective, evidence-based, science-driven definition of the adequacy of SNAP allotments consistent with the program goals of improving food security and access to a healthy diet,
  • as well as other relevant dimensions of adequacy;
  • and data and analyses needed to support an evidence-based assessment of the adequacy of SNAP allotments.




January 24, 2013 Posted by | Nutrition | , , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] (USDA) Pulled in Two Directions

From the 29 November 2012 post at BonAppeTERP :Terps talk about eating and living sustainably at UMD

November 29, 2012 by evabein

The USDA is charged with promoting the interests of U.S agriculture while simultaneously educating the public about proper eating habits. As American’s consume more meat than ever before and health concerns begin to surface about the advisability of this consumption, the two roles of the USDA have come into conflict. Advising more moderate meat consumption would not be in the interest of the meat industry, yet promoting it would not be in the interest of public health. Since these stakeholders often hold opposing views, the USDA can often only promote one of their interests at a time; and, pressure from either side can determine which interest is promoted.
For example, this summer, the USDA posted a statement on its website encouraging its employees to avoid meat on Meatless Monday  (a campaign to improve personal and environmental health). But after objections from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, it was removed from the website. Given the competing interests, how should we know when the USDA’s actions are benefiting us or when they are aimed to benefit another interest?


December 13, 2012 Posted by | Consumer Health, Nutrition | , , , | Leave a comment

Lacto-Ovo and Vegan Information Included in USDA Dietary Guidelines

Three weeks ago my husband and I started using  USDA’s Supertracker in an effort to make changes to our eating and exercise patterns.
Our goal is to reach and maintain a  healthy weight range and reap the benefits of a good exercise program.
More on this in a later blog entry.

A three week report showed I was deficient in several nutrients. I went to the 2010 USDA Dietary Guidelines to look up foods that are highest in these nutrients (including potassium and choline).While going through the appendix I came across

  • Appendix 8- Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian Adaption of the USDA Food Patterns (p. 81 of the Guideline)
  • Appendix 9 – Vegan Adaption of the USDA Food Patterns (p. 82 of the Guideline)

The USDA Guidelines state “[t]hese vegetarian variations represent healthy eating patterns, but rely on fortified foods for some nutrients. In the vegan patterns especially, fortified foods provide much of the calcium and vitamin B12, and either fortified foods or supplements should be selected to provide adequate intake of these nutrients. ”

I am the first to admit I am not a nutritionist or expert in vegetarianism. So I would not be surprised if folks knowledgable in these areas would take issue with the USDA approach on fortified foods and/or the information in the appendix.
Still, this is giving me pause to at least consider  vegan “substitutes” for some meat and dairy.
And it is heartening that the USDA is starting to be a bit more inclusive in the guidelines, no matter what the intentions are.

On a related note, Planning Has Begun for the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015.
According to the USDA announcement

The Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture are pleased to announce their intent to establish the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) and to invite nominations for the DGAC. Nominations will be accepted until 6:00 pm EST, on Monday, November 26, 2012 to or via fax or postal mail as described in the Federal Register notice.

The DGAC is expected to convene five meetings, with the intent of the first in April 2013. The Committee’s recommendations and rationale will serve as a basis for the eighth edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. To learn more and submit nominations, see the Federal Register notice.

Related Article

Is a Vegetarian Diet the Future of Food? by  on October 18, 2012
The evidence points to environmental costs and the effects of factory farming.

November 14, 2012 Posted by | Nutrition | , , , , | 1 Comment

New USDA Dietary Guidelines (released January 31, 2011)

The US Dept of Agriculture, Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion released Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010.

Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 - cover

Some excerpts from the Introduction

The ultimate goal of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans is to improve the health of our Nation’s current and future generations by facilitating and promoting healthy eatingand physical activity choices so that these behaviors become the norm among all individuals….

… The recommendations contained in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans traditionally have been intended for healthy Americans ages 2 years and older. However, Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 is being released at a time of rising concern about the health of the American population. Its recommendations accommodate the reality that a large percentage of Americans are overweight or obese and/or at risk of various chronic diseases. Therefore,the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 is intended for Americans ages 2 years and older, includingthose who are at increased risk of chronic disease….

…Dietary Guidelines for Americans also recognizes that in recent years nearly 15 percent of American households have been unable to acquire adequate food to meet their needs because of insufficient money or other resources for food.10 This dietary guidance can help them maximize the nutritional content of their meals within their resource constraints….

Chapters include Balancing Calories to Lose Weight, Foods and Food Components to Reduce, Foods and Nutrients to Increase, Building Health Eating Patterns, and Helping Americans Make Health Choices.

In the coming days and weeks, links will be added here to related news items, commentaries, and additional informational resources.

Links a few media news items (the author does not endorse the views in these links, they are provided for informational purposes only)

Alex Wong/Getty Images



February 1, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Public Health | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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