During the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of families have lost jobs or seen their incomes decline. Food insecurity, or not having access to enough food for a healthy, active lifestyle, has risen sharply.
As a result, federal nutrition programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); and National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs, have become even more essential to the health and well-being of children and families. The federal government has provided billions of dollars in additional funding, through the Family First Coronavirus Response Act and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, to prevent hunger and help ensure that children and families have access to healthy, affordable food.
Healthy Eating Research recently hosted a media briefing to explore how best to feed children during the pandemic. The briefing featured leading experts, including: Steven Abrams, MD, neonatologist and professor of Pediatrics at Dell Medical School at the University of Texas and chair of the Committee on Nutrition, American Academy of Pediatrics; Sara Bleich, PhD, professor of Public Health Policy at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health; Elisabet Eppes, MPH, program innovation director at the National WIC Association; and Blythe Thomas, chief strategy officer at 1,000 Days. They addressed:
- How upcoming federal legislation should support nutrition assistance programs to help ensure families have enough to eat;
- If current funding levels for SNAP and school meals programs are enough to meet growing demand;
- What caregivers can do if they are unable to purchase essential items such as infant formula
- How families with young children should shop for and store healthy items
In addition, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and Healthy Eating Research published two new research briefs that offer recommendations for prioritizing specific changes to SNAP in response to the pandemic. Together, they show why it is imperative for Congress to raise SNAP benefit levels during the COVID-19 pandemic and for the duration of the longer-term economic recovery.