The House Agriculture Subcommittee on Nutrition, Oversight, and Department Operations held a hearing on the Farm Bill last week, with a focus on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – or SNAP. Food and nutrition programs account for more than 75 percent of the funds in the farm bill. Representative Salud Carbajal (D-CA) commented on the scrutiny given to SNAP applicants.
“SNAP is critical to ensure in millions of Americans do not go hungry. When SNAP recipients use their benefits, Congress should not be overly scrutinizing every single purchase. We should let families make decisions, as other families do, that are best for them. I certainly share the goal of many of my colleagues interested in promoting healthier eating by SNAP recipients and making sure that, like the rest of America, they get as much education as possible,” he said. “But a few of my colleagues are doing more to regulate the ability of a SNAP recipient to buy a bag of chips than they are to ensure that someone purchasing an A.R. 15 is not a danger to others are themselves and or qualified to own such a gun. We also don’t see near this level of scrutiny when the United States government provides oil companies with subsidies. Sure they can spend those subsidies however they want.”
Carbajal also talked about the nutritional and economic benefits of SNAP.
“We know that the USDA has proven that dietary habits of SNAP participants and non-participants are very similar. We know that participation in SNAP is linked with improved nutritional outcomes compared to non-participants at similar income levels,” he said. “We also know that SNAP is a successful public-private partnership and for every dollar the government spends on SNAP, up to $1.50 is returned to the economy. There is a positive return to the economy from this very important program and there is no evidence that SNAP purchases are contributing to poor health outcomes.
Ty Jones Cox is the Vice President of Food Assistance, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Washington, DC, and was one of the witnesses at the hearing. Representative Carbajal asked her about the nutrition needs of children and how hunger can impact life outcomes.
“We know that food insecurity impacts a child’s ability to learn, to pay attention in school, and grow. Research has shown that children participating in SNAP face lower risks of nutritional deficiencies and poor health, which can improve their health over their lifetime. Also, SNAP helps children succeed in school,” she said. “We understand that when children are hungry they’re not able to pay attention. There also behavioral issues. There was a study that found that test scores among students in SNAP households is highest for those receiving benefits two or three weeks before the test. So, that suggests that SNAP can help students learn and prepare for tests and that with benefits run out and families are struggling for groceries, children’s ability to learn is diminished.”
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National Correspondent / AgNet Media, Inc.
Sabrina Halvorson is an award-winning journalist, broadcaster, and public speaker who specializes in agriculture. She primarily reports on legislative issues and hosts The AgNet Weekly podcast. Sabrina is a native of California’s agriculture-rich Central Valley.