Opening Statement: Subcommittee Chairman Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson: Nutrition Subcommittee Hearing: The Next Farm Bill: The Future of the SNAP
Remarks as prepared for delivery:
Good morning, and welcome to today’s Nutrition Subcommittee hearing on the future of SNAP. This hearing continues the Committee’s series to review current policy and set the stage for the next farm bill. Thank you to everyone for taking the time to be here, particularly our five witnesses for their participation and respective insights.
The House Committee on Agriculture completed a comprehensive review of SNAP during the 114th Congress. Known as the Past, Present, and Future of SNAP, the purpose of the review was to provide a better understanding of SNAP, the population it serves, how the program administers food benefits and other services to assist that population, and to examine ways the program can be improved. While the series highlighted specific ways that vulnerable populations are well-served, it also exposed several areas for improvement. While prior witnesses have touched on the future of SNAP in the context of specific hearing topics, this hearing’s purpose will be to solely discuss that future.
SNAP, formerly called the Food Stamp Program, is designed primarily to increase the food purchasing power of eligible low-income households to help them buy a nutritionally-adequate, low-cost diet. Benefits vary by household size, income, and expenses, like shelter and medical costs, and averaged nearly $126 per person per month in 2016. SNAP is the largest program in the domestic hunger safety net, currently offering nutrition assistance to 42.9 million eligible, low-income individuals and families, all the while providing economic benefits to communities.
SNAP has seen considerable growth in recent years. The cost of the program more than doubled from $37.6 billion in 2008, to nearly $80 billion at its peak in 2013. Likewise, participation in the program increased from 28.2 million participants in 2008, to 47.6 million participants in 2013. As the economy has moved through recovery from the recession, participation and costs of SNAP have slowly started to decrease. In 2016, total costs were $70.97 billion, with participation at 44.2 million.
This hearing will provide additional opportunity for stakeholders to discuss their priorities for improvements to SNAP in the upcoming farm bill, in areas such as ensuring adequate nutrition, strengthening the pathway toward self-sufficiency, bettering outcomes for children and families via education, and continuing to advance program efficiency and integrity.
The panel we will hear from this morning will offer insight based on their operational and policy experience. These well-informed perspectives are critical as we look toward Farm Bill reauthorization, with a focus on acknowledging what works, reducing administrative burdens, and discussing areas for improvement, so that SNAP benefits reach those most in need in the most effective and efficient manner possible.
I want to thank all of our witnesses for sharing their time and expertise. I now recognize Mr. McGovern for his opening statement.