Opening Statements

Opening Statement: Chairman K. Michael Conaway: Committee on Agriculture Hearing: Pros and Cons of Restricting SNAP Purchases

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Washington, February 16, 2017 | comments

Remarks as prepared for delivery:

I want to welcome our witnesses to today’s hearing and thank them for taking the time to share their views on a very timely and somewhat sensitive topic—the idea of restricting SNAP purchases. This hearing is a continuation of the conversation had in a Member roundtable last October. There are good arguments to be made on both sides of this issue, and this discussion will be yet another addition to the Committee’s commitment to strengthening the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

On November 18th of last year, USDA released a report entitled Foods Typically Purchased by Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Households. This study analyzed food purchase data collected at the point of sale to assess differences in the purchasing patterns of SNAP and non-SNAP households.  Specifically, the report looked at the items purchased by SNAP households and how food purchases by SNAP households compared to food purchases made by non-SNAP households.

Ultimately, the report found that about forty cents of every food purchase dollar was spent on basic items like meat, fruits, vegetables, milk, eggs, and bread.

Another twenty cents was spent on sweetened drinks, desserts, salty snacks, candy, and sugar. The remaining forty cents was spent on a variety of items such as cereal, prepared foods, other dairy products, rice, beans, and other cooking ingredients.

To be clear, when comparing spending on broad food categories, the data show that both SNAP and non-SNAP households made similar food choices.  However, the report also confirms that there are differences in spending on individual food categories.  One can also reasonably infer from the report that billions in taxpayer dollars are being spent on items like sweetened beverages and prepared desserts.  

The report, while not the sole basis of this hearing, begs the question of whether certain food or beverage items should be restricted as eligible food items in SNAP. While it’s important to have this discussion, we can all agree that no one in America ought to go hungry, and SNAP is essential in providing nutrition to the most vulnerable citizens during tough times.

Our goal is to provide much needed nutrition and to encourage Americans to eat healthier.  To that end, this committee has historically advocated for nutrition education and healthy eating incentive programs. Today, we will consider whether additional restrictions should be added to that mix.  Thank you again to the witnesses for being here today. We look forward to your testimony. With that, I now turn to the Ranking Member for any comments he would like to make.

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Tags: SNAP