Systemic racism in the U.S. creates health care disparities that have long impacted the Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) community, and COVID-19 has made them worse. Our community faces challenges accessing healthy, affordable foods, while battling chronic diseases that lifelong good nutrition can prevent.

Improving the Thrifty Food Plan — the basis for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits — is a crucial step toward improved nutrition security for millions of Americans. A 2018 study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that most SNAP participants face at least one hurdle to a healthy diet, with the most common being the cost of nutrient-dense foods. This study found that participants who struggled to afford nutritious foods were over two times as likely to be food insecure.

In Washington state, more than 953,000 people participate in SNAP. Investing in the Thrifty Food Plan gives our neighbors resources to purchase nutritious foods.

When investing in the Thrifty Food Plan, it is imperative that the USDA uses a health-equity lens, considering culturally appropriate foods, systemic racism and a realistic view of living in poverty.

An investment in the Thrifty Food Plan today saves health care dollars and lives tomorrow.

Brittany Cuthbert, director of policy and advocacy, Washington State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Seattle