House Ag Committee tackles SNAP as Farm Bill work continues
The House Ag Committee tackled the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, as it continues work on the Farm Bill.
SNAP consumes up to 80% of total Farm Bill spending.
USDA plans to spend $127 billion this year to provide nutrition assistance to 43 million people. USDA Deputy Undersecretary Stacy Dean says that includes the 21% cost increase from the thrifty food plan reevaluation and pandemic emergency allotments.
“We have a four-pillar approach first is to ensure that our programs are providing meaningful support so that the benefits are adequate and are informed by nutrition science. You’ve heard about the Thrifty adjustment, we’re going to be proposing changes to WIC and the school food program. To reflect the 2020 Dietary Guidelines we’re required to do that by law that’s forthcoming changes.
The Emergency Rescue Plan, signed in March 2021, included $25 million to help small and independent grocers and the technology needed for online SNAP sales, but so far, no money has actually been distributed.
“Next month in May, we are going to be putting out a request for a contract to develop a Technical Assistance Center which will be specifically designed to assist particularly again, those smaller retailers and coming on board to the online platforms. And their goal will be really to provide the support that those retailers need to assess their technology needs and the business case to be able to successfully integrate into online purchasing and SNAP.”
Multiple members questioned nutrition standards, including Arkansas Congressman Rick Crawford, who went back and forth with USDA leadership over why whole milk is limited in schools, but sugary drinks are allowed on SNAP. Undersecretary Dean says the programs are different under the law.
“You as FNS are making the decision that one nutrition program we can make those judgment calls, but another nutritional program, we can’t make those judgment calls and also our energy drinks included in SNAP. Are they acceptable for SNAP expenditures?”
“They are congressman. Let me just jump in on this. I think the statute actually differentiates between the programs in terms of the science based standards and the provision of food versus empowering.”
“Would you support changing that statute so that you could make a more consistent application across the agency?
Well, I think we are making a consistent application and that we are promoting for SNAP participants to purchase food aligned with the dietary guidelines.”
Throughout the hearing, there was argument from both sides of the aisle about pandemic waivers and SNAP increases and whether they should be made permanent or ended.
California Congressman Jim Costa acknowledged how contentious SNAP can be, and he highlighted job training pilot programs that Undersecretary Dean has visited.
“Huge emphasis on case management, making sure that families have some of the wraparound supports that they need for training and employment. Successful, Yes, and also really making sure that participants are matched to the right program or training program for them as well as the right employer and high quality jobs big focus on ensuring that we placed participants in high provide a living wage that yes, and that lead to opportunity.”
Dean says the new Local Food Procurement Grant Program is also working to support farmers and reduce food insecurity by purchasing food for schools and local food banks.
Committee members also expressed concern about food security for veterans, streamlining the process for eligibility and education through the Department of Veteran Affairs.