Washington, D.C.—Organic & Natural Health Association (O&N Health) has launched the All for Vitamin D: Building Stronger Families in a SNAP campaign. A main goal of this public awareness initiative: to enhance the nutritional support provided through the Farm Bill's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

The campaign calls on concerned voters to reach out to their respective members of Congress, particularly those serving on the influential House Committee on Agriculture, O&N Health explained. Voters are encourage to advocate for an amendment calling for the inclusion of vitamin D3 dietary supplements as part of SNAP recipients' benefits. O&N Health added that the campaign strives to "ignite a profound shift in the lives of SNAP recipients, championing their well-being and unlocking a future of vibrant health."

"Sufficient vitamin D levels are of paramount importance, as we have witnessed during the pandemic," emphasized Alan Lewis, Vice President of Advocacy and Governmental Affairs at Natural Grocers and board member of O&N Health. "Recent data unequivocally highlights the critical role of vitamin D in addressing numerous health concerns. Relying on outdated notions of obtaining vitamin D solely through diet or sun exposure is not only impractical, but also perilous, advice. It is imperative that we embrace the power of dietary supplementation to provide effective and practical solutions for achieving optimal vitamin D levels."

The farm bill's SNAP plays a vital role in providing assistance to millions of low-income Americans, with the goal of promoting food security and alleviating hunger. But while SNAP ensures that individuals and families have access to nutritious food, O&N Health said there are crucial nutrition gaps that demand attention. In an effort to address some of these concerns, O&N Health has partnered with SENPANatural GrocersINFRA and the Council of Holistic Health Educators.

O&N Health Outlines Key Issue with SNAP

SNAP permits the purchase of a diverse range of foods, encompassing fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and proteins. The issue is that SNAP lacks clear guidelines regarding the quality and nutritional value of those foods. O&N Health points to vitamin D, noting that SNAP falls short in providing solutions to help people meet therapeutic vitamin D levels (40-60 ng/ml), especially since these vitamin D levels can't be achieved solely through food or sunlight exposure.

"Empowering SNAP recipients with nutrition knowledge and skills can save lives and taxpayer healthcare dollars," stressed Karen Howard, CEO and Executive Director of O&N Health. "Vitamin D3 supplements offer an affordable solution to address a range of health challenges faced by families, including preterm births, depression, respiratory infections, asthma, cancer, and chronic diseases like cardiovascular issues, high blood pressure, and Type 2 diabetes."

As O&N Health explains: "Research shows achieving a vitamin D level of 40 ng/ml has significant health benefits such as, reducing preterm birth by 60% and lowering cancer risk by 65%. Recent meta-analyses link higher vitamin D levels to decreased COVID-19 incidence, severity, and morbidity rates. People of color face elevated risk due to melatonin blocking vitamin D absorption, making them more susceptible to chronic diseases and COVID-19 complications."

Amending the farm bill to make it easier for disadvantaged American families to obtain vitamin D3 supplements through SNAP benefits can help address  nutrition gaps and combat the far-reaching health implications of vitamin D deficiency, O&N Health stressed.

O&N Health's Call to Action

"Support the 'All for Vitamin D: Building Stronger Families in a SNAP' campaign and urge members of Congress to add vitamin D3 to the farm bill’s SNAP at www.All4VitaminD.com. Join Organic & Natural Health Association to be an advocate for the health of people and the planet at https://organicandnatural.org."

For natural products industry members, Howard has discussed the importance of advocacy. "If you are a retailer, supplement brand, or a company in the nutraceutical supply chain, your intention is likely directly related to improving the health of your community, even if the community is the U.S. population at large. You know that requires education, and sharing the information and knowledge you have. For example, we all know that vitamin D deficiency plays a major role in disease rates, especially for people of color and families without the financial means to afford the organic and regenerative diet required to maintain good health. Plus, it’s impossible for anyone to eat their way to a healthy vitamin D level. One solution is to advocate for Congress to enable SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; formerly known as the food stamp program) recipients to use their benefits to purchase vitamin D supplementation. Will this result in increased revenues for your stores or company? Not really. Will it serve your mission as a health educator and change agent? Absolutely. Will it have a long-term impact on a larger political agenda? Most definitely, even if the effort is unsuccessful the first time around." 

Read more of Karen Howard's insights on advocacy.