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Voting 234-195, members of the U.S. House of Representatives rejected a farm bill, which included changes to the nation’s largest anti-hunger program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps).

The bill would have let states drug-test SNAP recipients, imposed new work requirements and cut more than $20.5 billion from the SNAP budget over the next decade.

Nearly 47 million Americans–1.7 million of whom live in North Carolina–rely on food stamps to meet some or all of their daily nutritional needs. During economic downturns SNAP helps families stretch tight budgets and put food on the table. SNAP benefits also provide much-needed cash infusions of federal dollars into local communities during tough times. Studies estimate that every $1 spent on food stamps creates $1.79 in stimulus.

Half of all SNAP participants are children under the age of 18. SNAP plays an important role in preserving children’s health and well-being. In 2010, food stamps prevented an estimated 2 million children from slipping below the federal poverty line. Nutrition benefits also help to reduce the likelihood of food insecurity for vulnerable children.

Inadequate nutrition, especially when experienced during the earliest years of life as children undergo rapid growth in their bodies and brains, can have devastating consequences for future health status. Infants and toddlers from food-insecure families are 90 percent more likely to be in fair or poor health, and 30 percent more likely to be hospitalized, than their counterparts in food-secure households. Food insecurity is also associated with negative health outcomes in older children, including poorer physical health, decreased school achievement in reading and math, and behavioral and psychological conditions.

The House may reconsider its farm bill after the July 4 recess, or take up the Senate version of the bill which was passed earlier this month. The Senate plan preserves food stamp eligibility, excludes the House’s additional imposed requirements, and cuts the SNAP budget by $4 billion over the next 10 years.

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