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Opening Statements

Opening Statement: Chairman K. Michael Conaway Committee on Agriculture Hearing: Past, Present, and Future of SNAP Opportunities for Improving Access to Food

Remarks as prepared for delivery:

Over the course of the 114th Congress, we have heard from 55 witnesses at 15 different hearings in our series on the Past, Present and Future of SNAP. We have heard from witnesses discussing their experiences as SNAP recipients, from state agencies implementing SNAP across the country, from charitable partners that work with SNAP recipients, from innovative organizations receiving SNAP funding to help improve and target SNAP programs, from retailers who sell food and provide access to healthy foods in their local communities, and from a wide range of other partners, implementers, government agencies, and stakeholders.

These witnesses have expressed an array of opinions on the successes and failures of SNAP at serving people in need of nutritious, wholesome food. They have shared great accomplishments, but have also pointed out that there is room for improvement. The findings of our two-year review are being compiled into a comprehensive report that we plan to release next month.

As we begin the 16th and final hearing of our series, the individuals we have with us today represent organizations at the forefront of improving access to healthy food. At this point, we have all heard about “food deserts” and concerns about whether those who receive SNAP benefits can actually make healthy purchases with the benefits they receive. The organizations represented here today are working to address those concerns in unique and innovative ways.  It is my hope that some of the ideas discussed in this hearing can be applied more broadly throughout SNAP to enhance program delivery.

As we have discussed time and again, SNAP is not a one-size-fits-all program. Different communities have different needs, and there are different gaps in SNAP delivery. So I am looking forward to hearing how the steps that today’s witnesses have taken target the unique needs of the communities they each serve.

As the Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, I am especially cognizant of the challenges that many who live in rural America face in accessing healthy food. Online purchases, whether or not they are made through SNAP, can increase access to fresh foods for customers in rural and urban communities alike who are not near—or able to travel to—a fresh food retailer. Companies like Amazon are well known for their online presence and our other witnesses, while perhaps less well known, are in some cases already delivering groceries to customers through online purchases.

While these online platforms certainly increase access to food, online sales also raise implementation questions related to shipping, product freshness, product availability, and cost. It is my hope that some of these questions can be answered, or at least explored, in this hearing.

As a taxpayer myself, and as a steward of taxpayer dollars, I want the dollars that go toward SNAP to be well spent. SNAP dollars that are used inefficiently are SNAP dollars that are not feeding people, or helping them learn about healthy eating, or helping them find work and ultimately lifting them off of the program. SNAP dollars should provide the greatest benefit possible and allow for the maximum improvement in nutrition for the households that need them. Hopefully, innovations in how customers make their food purchases will prove to be one such way those efficiencies can be gained.

Before I conclude, I would like to take a moment to thank my friend Randy Neugebauer for his service as the Vice Chairman of this Committee.  Over the past 13 years, he has faithfully served this Committee and the people of West Texas, and I wish him nothing but the best as he enters this new chapter. Randy, you will be missed.

With that, I thank our witnesses for being here today, and I recognize Ranking Member Peterson for any comments he would like to make.