By: Thomas K. McInerny, MD, FAAP, president, American Academy of Pediatrics
“On the heels of new Census data released this week demonstrating that more than one in five children still live in poverty in this country, the U.S. House of Representatives’ Farm Bill and short-term spending bill are out of touch and fail to meet children’s most basic health, nutritional and economic needs.
“The American Academy of Pediatrics denounces the House’s nutrition-only Farm Bill, passed last night by a vote of 217-210. The measure would exacerbate child hunger by cutting $40 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps), the nation’s largest child nutrition program, over 10 years. If the bill were to become law, nearly 3.8 million people would lose nutrition assistance in the next year. A family’s ability to afford food directly impacts children’s health and development. Since children account for close to half of all SNAP recipients, cutting this program disproportionately hurts children and jeopardizes national efforts to help lift children out of poverty.
“The House’s short-term spending bill, passed 230-189 this morning, is further cause for concern. The measure would defund the Affordable Care Act and the Children’s Health Insurance Program and keep spending at sequestration levels. This places additional strain on maternal and child health programs like WIC and Head Start, which provide lifeline services to vulnerable families and are already operating at historically low levels. Further cutting these programs means scaling back investments in a broad range of child health areas, such as preventive health screenings, childhood immunizations, the pediatric workforce, early education and medical research innovations.
“Children deserve better. They deserve strong policies that protect them against hunger, improve their nutrition and help their families afford access to healthy food. They deserve access to affordable, quality health insurance. The Farm Bill and short-term spending measure passed by the House this week fail to meet these needs on every front, which is why the American Academy of Pediatrics stands in strong opposition to both.
“Children may not be able to vote, but through their pediatricians and other child health advocates, they do have a voice. America’s pediatricians call on Congress to pass a Farm Bill that protects against hunger, improves child nutrition and increases access to healthy food, and a budget that invests in child health. Anything less will fall short for children, contributing to ongoing, serious health problems that will persist throughout their adult lives and for decades to come. It is time to put children first.”
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The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. (www.aap.org)