“SNAP is essential in protecting the most vulnerable citizens during tough times, but we need to have a complete understanding of its mission and purpose.” That was the message from House Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway this week as the committee began its top-to-bottom review of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), previously known as food stamps.
Subcommittee Urges Added Funding to Emergency Food Program
Washington, DC — In a hearing today, the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight, Nutrition, and Forestry reviewed legislation (H.R. 3453) introduced by its Chairman, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), which would increase available funds for the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP).
"TEFAP provides vital food assistance to families who fall on hard times, while not entrapping them in a cycle of dependency for which other federal assistance programs are infamous," said Goodlatte. "All around our communities are hard working folks who, because of unfortunate circumstances, cannot afford food for themselves or their families. Food banks meet the needs of their communities by managing donations from the government and the private sector. They provide a hand up, instead of a handout."
The Balanced Budget Act of 1997 included hundreds of millions of dollars for Employment and Training Programs aimed at those able bodied adults without dependents (ABAWD) whose eligibility for the Food Stamp Program was restricted by a work requirement in the Welfare Reform Act of 1996. The money is dedicated to training programs that keep any ABAWD on the food stamp rolls if they participate. Several hearings and reports have said that the money is going unspent because very few are taking advantage of the programs. At the same time, food banks are reporting an increase in demand from the same demographic group.
The Emergency Food Assistance Enhancement Act (H.R. 3453) simply allows the Secretary of Agriculture to spend up to $25 million of unused Employment and Training money on TEFAP commodity purchases. This would increase TEFAP's mandatory commodity purchase account to $125 million.
"TEFAP is a quick fix, something to get families through tough times," said Subcommittee Vice-Chairman Tom Ewing (R-IL). "It gives them the support they need, but it doesn't ensnare them into a cycle of dependency for which other federal assistance programs are infamous. TEFAP purchases also provide much needed support to the agriculture community. While other food assistance programs are much larger, TEFAP has a more direct impact for agriculture producers."
"Several reports indicate that much of the money allocated for employment training under the Food Stamp program is going unspent because very few are taking advantage of the programs," Goodlatte said. "At the same time, food banks are reporting an increase in demand. Why not put the money where the greatest need is?"
The majority of government donations to food banks are the product of TEFAP. It is a unique program that has the ability to provide nutritious domestic agriculture products to needy Americans while at the same time providing support to the agriculture community. In the 1996 welfare reform bill, Congress made TEFAP commodity purchases mandatory because of the integral role this program has in the provisions of food assistance to needy families.