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one school has received the gold award of distinction, demonstrating the difficulty in reaching stricter sodium levels.44

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

SNAP (formerly known as Food Stamps) is overseen by USDA. This program is designed to supplement the purchasing power of low-income families in hopes of helping them maintain a nutritious diet (GAO, 2008). On average, more than 33 million people participated in the program in 2009 and received approximately $50.4 billion in food benefits.45

Qualification for benefits is based on income—one’s gross household income must not exceed 130 percent of the federal poverty level, and net income cannot exceed 100 percent of the federal poverty level. Program recipients receive an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) in the form of a card that operates like a debit card. Participants are provided a monthly EBT allotment, which is allocated by state agencies and can be used at the approximately 165,000 retailers that accept these benefits (GAO, 2008). SNAP has only a few limitations on items that can be purchased using its benefits, such as food products that contain alcohol or tobacco, vitamins and supplements, and foods sold hot at the point of sale are not eligible.46

Recently, there has been more interest in encouraging more healthful food purchases using SNAP funds, and it has been recognized that the size of SNAP offers an impressive opportunity to promote dietary change. The 2008 Farm Bill provided $20 million in mandatory funding for a project to test point-of-purchase incentives for healthful foods in SNAP and authorized appropriations for similar projects.47 In addition, the Government Accountability Office (GAO, 2008) reviewed what is known about the effectiveness of financial incentives for purchasing healthful foods and provided a discussion of options available to implement financial incentives in SNAP. The committee is not aware of any efforts to include sodium in such initiatives, but it may be possible to do so.

44

Available online: http://www.fns.usda.gov/TN/HealthierUS/silvergoldtn.html (accessed November 24, 2009).

45

Available online: http://www.fns.usda.gov/pd/SNAPsummary.htm (accessed October 15, 2009).

46

Available online: http://www.fns.usda.gov/FSP/retailers/pdfs/eligibile_foods.pdf (accessed October 15, 2009).

47

Available online: http://www.fns.usda.gov/FSP/rules/Legislation/about.htm (accessed October 15, 2009).



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