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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Salceda: Food stamps program needs to be integrated

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A leader of the House of Representatives urged the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) last Sunday to integrate a proposed food stamps program with the efforts of the Department of Agriculture (DA).

House Committee on Ways and Means Chairman Jose Ma. Clemente S. Salceda said economic managers should also consider earmarking junk-food taxes for nutrition programs.

“Food stamps, as envisioned and implemented in other countries, are really agricultural programs. They aim to bridge rural surpluses with food-poor urban communities. That way, we address both urban poverty and rural poverty,” Salceda said.

The lawmaker noted that around 30 percent of farmers are poor.

“So, if you want to make this program sustainable, you link it with boosting farmer incomes,” Salceda added.

The lawmaker is commenting on the food stamp program proposed by the DSWD, which has so far met some opposition from economic managers due to costs.

“As it was originally implemented in the US, where the food stamp program is most prevalent and arguably most successful, you can have a specific amount for general food items, and you can have a special stamp or voucher for surplus produce,” Salceda said.

“What the farmers can get for surplus produce are food stamps for the general program. So, you help solve their food insecurity issues. You take out the surplus, helping manage prices. And you provide free surplus food to those who need it. It’s a great synergy,” he added.

Salceda, hence, believes the DSWD “should really team up with the DA on this program.”

Earmarking

THE lawmaker also said that the government should consider using revenues from the sweetened beverage tax to fund the food stamp program.

Salceda explained that the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion law, which introduced sweetened beverage taxes, earmarks around 30 percent of its revenues to social measures, including, very specifically, social mitigating measures and investments in education, health, targeted nutrition and anti-hunger programs for mothers, infants and young children.

“We were also not able to earmark programs for sugar farmers under the law; and we should have. That was part of the deal,” the solon said. “So, I strongly suggest that if we are going to do this, let’s pilot it for poor sugar farmers,” Salceda added.

If the government will earmark the revenues entirely for this program, Salceda believes the proposal to tax junk food also stands a chance in Congress.

“So, it has to be a DOH-DA-DSWD effort, with the economic managers guiding us about funding,” Salceda added.

Earlier, the economic managers called for the passage of increases in the sweetened beverage taxes.

“If we are going to discuss new taxes on any junk food, funding nutritional programs should be part of the mix,” Salceda said.

The lawmaker, however, said he hasn’t received an official request from the Department of Finance to take up the measure “they said they want my committee to take up.”

“But if they send a draft bill for me to file and take up, funding nutritional programs with a hard earmark has to be part of the mix,” Salceda added.

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