Mission: Readiness members and U.S. Representative Rick Crawford Highlight Solutions to Fight Malnutrition in Arkansas
Members of Mission: Readiness, Representative Crawford, and nutrition experts joined a panel to discuss how eradicating childhood malnutrition can improve national security
Yesterday, community and business leaders and Mission: Readiness members came together to discuss malnutrition and military readiness in Arkansas. The panel discussion underscored childhood obesity’s threat to national security, and how the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) nutrition incentive program GusNIP can be a part of the solution.
Childhood obesity is a significant issue plaguing neighborhoods in Arkansas and around the country. Obesity can manifest as a result of malnutrition—which includes not having enough nutritious food to eat, or eating too much of the wrong food.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shined a light on both the severity of childhood obesity and its role in destabilizing our national security. According to the Department of Defense, 74 percent of Arkansans ages 17-24 are currently ineligible to serve in the military, with obesity being a leading medical disqualifier. This harrowing statistic could get even worse as pandemic-related effects spur a rise in childhood malnutrition manifesting as obesity.
The GusNIP program is the key to increasing SNAP participants’ ability to purchase fruit and vegetables thereby improving the quality of SNAP families’ diet. In Arkansas, GusNIP is carried out via a method called “Double Up Food Bucks.” For each dollar of SNAP benefits that a recipient spends on fresh fruits and vegetables, the program gives them an additional dollar to spend on fresh fruits and vegetables. The program is instrumental in improving access to healthy and nutritious foods—making Arkansas communities much more food-secure.
“Food security is national security, and that fact is known to no one better than our military leaders,” Representative Rick Crawford said. “The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified food insecurity and demonstrated the importance of programs like GusNIP that enable Americans to have access to safe, affordable, and nutritious food.” Representative Crawford also commended Mission: Readiness’s work. “I applaud the efforts of Mission: Readiness to draw attention to childhood malnutrition and obesity, and my hope is that together we will build a more secure future,” he said.
We must ensure Arkansas children have consistent access to fresh and nutritious food. As the Mission: Readiness Report “Breaking Point” lays out, adapting and modernizing our nation’s federal nutrition programs is a key solution to combating malnutrition. Innovations like GusNIP present a crucial opportunity to fight the threat of malnutrition by bringing together the government, non-profit organizations, and local businesses to achieve this goal and strengthen America’s national security.
Jeremy Adams, Double Up Food Bucks Program Director, Arkansas Coalition on Obesity Prevention, and Joel Cotrell, Category Data Analyst, Harp’s Food Stores, also participated in the event. They discussed their involvement in GusNIP and experience in keeping Arkansas children and communities healthy. “We’re trying to get people to change their habits,” Adams explained. “It’s difficult, but with a little incentive, like the kind offered with GusNIP, it can happen,” he added. Cotrell remarked that “implementation can be difficult, but the results are undeniable, and I want to do as much as I can to support these programs.”
Overall, the event underscored that, together, with a little bit of incentive, we can make childhood malnutrition a thing of the past. “We have solutions available,” General Profit said. “Now is the time to reduce childhood malnutrition by strengthening and expanding the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program. I am proud to be a part of a call on Congress, states, communities, and private businesses to work together to end childhood malnutrition.”
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