This September is Hunger Action Month, and our friends at Feeding America are working to call attention to hunger, which impacts 48 million people – including 15 million children, in the United States. Organizations like Goodwill understand that food security and nutrition are inseparable from education and career success – families, individuals and children who are struggling to meet their nutrition needs are less prepared to succeed at work and at school.
Communities across the country are trying to sustain those in need, and a critical resource in that effort is the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a fundamental program for low-income individuals and families, SNAP provides millions with nutrition assistance. However, something has been changing with this critical program. According to the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), participation in SNAP is at its lowest level since 2010 – more than 2 million people stopped receiving SNAP benefits from May 2015 to May 2016 alone. This is due in part to a major effort to reduce SNAP funding by limiting participation in the program.
How SNAP Works
The SNAP program is part of the Farm Bill, which is due for reauthorization every five years. The last farm bill, passed in 2014, cut more than $8 billion from SNAP (about $90 per month for the average family), added funds for food banks and community and school local food project, and established grants for states to implement work training programs for SNAP participants. Goodwill organizations have helped states to implement these training programs in some communities, and SNAP agencies referred more than 25,000 people to Goodwill to receive services last year. The federal government pays the full cost of SNAP benefits and splits the cost of administering the program with the states, which operate the program.
Perceptions of the Program
SNAP reauthorization conversations are currently brewing at the Capitol. U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX), chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, has led a number of hearings looking into SNAP, its efficiency and effectiveness. He has indicated that the Agricultural committee will begin drafting the bill by next year, to include a “comprehensive review of SNAP with an eye toward cutting costs.” At the same time, many economic and food stability groups such as FRAC, The White House, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors have come forward to highlight SNAP’s effectiveness and efficiency in promoting food security and good health in support of increasing the amount provided to participants and increasing the number of those eligible for work training under the program.
We all must come together in serving the whole individual and family, and support legislation that promotes healthy nutrition, work training and education for SNAP recipients. If you have thoughts or questions around SNAP, please feel free to contact me at [email protected], and sign up for action alerts to stay in the know about what’s coming next.