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Opening Statements

Opening Statement: Subcommittee Chairwoman Walorski: Breaking the Cycle

Remarks as prepared:

Good morning and welcome to our meeting of the Nutrition Subcommittee. Thank you all for making time in your schedules to be here and thank you to today’s witnesses for your participation.

This is the latest hearing in our series, the Past, Present, and Future of SNAP. Today, we are examining how to break the cycle of poverty.

This hearing was inspired by a visit I made last year to Concord High School in Elkhart, Indiana, in my district. I’m sure my colleagues are familiar with how these visits typically go, answering questions from the bright students gathered in the auditorium or classroom. How does a bill become a law? What’s it like being in Congress? What’s your position on such-and-such issue? However, one student’s question that day caught me off guard: How do I break the cycle of poverty?

The student, Brayanna Hanson, stood up in front of her peers and bravely told her story. Her family receives SNAP benefits. She got a job to start saving for college because she recognized the value of a college degree. She is trying to break out of the poverty cycle, yet felt intense pressure on all sides to keep going. How do I break the cycle of poverty? That day still resonates with me and, as I said, is why we are here today.

In our past hearings, we’ve examined how food insecurity affects adults. We know they postpone medical care, receive inadequate intake of key nutrients, have poor physical and mental health, and are more likely to suffer from depression. What about adolescents and kids?

Studies have shown that children who grow up in impoverished conditions are more likely to have lower academic achievement and are more likely to live in poverty as adults. How do we give youths an off-ramp from this?

SNAP is only one piece in the social safety net puzzle, so we must recognize that this one program can’t do it all. And as we saw in a previous hearing, sometimes the puzzle as a whole can inadvertently create disincentives to work. The “welfare cliff,” for instance, forces recipients to consider foregoing raises or promotions because the increase in income isn’t enough to replace the loss of SNAP and other benefits. America is the Land of Opportunity, not the Land of “Well, I’ll Have to Think About It.”

SNAP tries to help young people break the poverty cycle by exempting formal college savings, like 529 plans, and income from those under 18 from eligibility calculations. Are these effective? Is there more we can be doing to aid children in impoverished households to break the poverty cycle?

Today, we’ll hear from witnesses who can attest to the impact poverty has on children, the challenges they face as they transition into adulthood, and ways we can help them increase their chance at success.

I thank each of our witnesses who are here today and I would like to also introduce one witness here today from my district, Ruth Riley.

Ms. Riley played for the University of Notre Dame and was a member of the 2001 National Championship Women’s Team, won a WNBA Championship with the Detroit Shock, and a gold medal with the U.S. Olympic team in 2004. Before she won championships on the basketball court, Ruth was raised in a single-parent household that relied on food stamps and free-and-reduced lunches. In 2012, Ruth became an ambassador for Share our Strength, a nonprofit organization committed to ending childhood hunger, as part of their No Kid Hungry campaign. Thank you Ms. Riley for being here today.