Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
During the 114th Congress, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) has carried out a top-to-bottom review campaign of SNAP to highlight potential areas of improvement to the program. This week, the House Agriculture Committee will hold a full committee hearing to examine food access. The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Economic Research Service (ERS) conducts economic analyses of people and places that lack access to healthy, affordable foods. ERS has determined that certain people, especially those in low-income communities, are more likely to face greater obstacles in accessing healthy and affordable food stores, which negatively affects diet and food security. Under Chairman Conaway’s leadership, in addition to this week’s hearing, the full committee and Subcommittee on Nutrition has led 17 nutrition-focused hearings, 11 of which were part of the committee’s “Past, Present, and Future of SNAP” campaign. It is expected that the insights gained during these hearings will serve as testimony to support certain SNAP-reform proposals in the next farm bill.
Child Nutrition Reauthorization
Congress has yet to advance legislation to reauthorize child nutrition programs. At this time, two separate versions of the bill are pending in the Senate and House. Although the approaches in the underlying legislation are different, both bills seek to improve school meal policies and make changes to the Special Supplemental Nutrition program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). While the Senate Agriculture Committee unanimously approved its version of the bill in January 2016, several unrelated issues have prevented the measure from moving forward, including concerns expressed by some that the bill would make it more difficult for schools to process students’ applications for free and reduced meals. In May 2016, the House Education and the Workforce Committee marked up its bill, which has also proven to be somewhat controversial. Some groups argue the bill would significantly reduce schools’ abilities to ensure that qualifying students receive free or reduced school meals, while others claim the policies would interfere with USDA’s efforts to improve school nutrition standards. If a bill is not passed by both chambers before the end of 2016, the programs will remain unchanged and the legislative process will start over in the 115th Congress.
This Week’s Hearings:
- Wednesday, November 16: The House Agriculture Committee will hold a full committee, public hearing titled “Past, Present, and Future of SNAP: Opportunities for Improving Access to Food.”