Boston -- The Food Stamp program and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), which are primarily funded through the Food and Nutrition Service of the United States Department of Agriculture, have made significant strides toward eliminating nutrition-related health disparities between low-income and higher-income groups. Despite this success, federally-funded nutrition programs have faced criticism for potentially contributing to the nation's obesity epidemic. To dispel this notion, Eileen Kennedy, DSc, RD, Dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, and Tufts colleagues recently authored a report and accompanying issue brief through the bi-partisan National Governors Association (NGA) Center for Best Practices, and proposed policy changes that would allow the Food Stamp and WIC programs to continue reducing nutrition-related health disparities while simultaneously addressing obesity.
"The population as a whole is struggling with overweight and obesity, not just those who are enrolled in federally-funded nutrition programs," says Kennedy. In fact, the Tufts authors write that an expert panel investigating the potential link between nutrition programs and obesity concluded that the "available research on the Food Stamp program and WIC did not indicate that the programs were causing obesity." WIC and Food Stamp participants did improve nutrient intakes, but the panel determined that overall calories increased only among pre-natal WIC participants, which is thought to be a positive factor contributing to higher birth-weight babies. Tufts authors also cited that "data indicate that from 1976 to 2002, the probability of a woman being overweight grew the least among food stamp recipients."
Although research suggests that participation in the WIC and Food Stamps programs is not associated with obesity, Kennedy acknowledges that diets of program participants are still not o
Contact: Siobhan Gallagher