Opening Statements

Opening Statement: Chairman K. Michael Conaway Committee on Agriculture Hearing: Past, Present, and Future of SNAP: The World of Nutrition and the Role of the Charitable Sector

f t # e
Washington, DC, April 15, 2015 | comments

Remarks as prepared for delivery:

I want to welcome our witnesses to today’s hearing and thank them for taking the time to travel here to share their perspectives and answer our questions on how the charitable sector plays a vital role in providing food assistance to families in need. Today is about hearing from the folks on the ground, practitioners in the field. They will provide us with their first person accounts of what is working and is not working as we continue to explore the Past, Present, and Future of SNAP.

We proceed today without preconceived notions and with a commitment to strengthening the program so it can serve as a tool to help individuals and families move up the economic ladder.

Today, we also begin a new phase of the review, which is to explore the world of nutrition that surrounds SNAP, formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Addressing the nutritional needs of Americans is not the sole responsibility of SNAP. The program does not operate in a vacuum. Instead, there is a web of government programs and charitable organizations working toward a common goal. From churches to community organizations to corporate philanthropy and local food banks, these non-profits are deeply rooted in their communities and serve as important partners in the delivery of critical food assistance across the country. Understanding SNAP’s interaction with these organizations will help to maximize the effectiveness of all organizations involved, government and nongovernment, and better target limited resources by identifying both unmet needs and areas of overlap.

Contrary to the picture painted by many, SNAP benefits are designed to be supplemental, leaving household responsible for the remaining needs. Many do so with the help of local organizations, such as the West Texas Food Bank, which annually serves more than 75,000 individuals more than 3.6 million meals through their various partner organizations. Individuals and organizations that highlight the SNAP benefit level in a manner that misrepresents the idea that it is supplemental is both confusing and disingenuous. While the issue of hunger deserves our thoughtful consideration, misleading the general public to draw attention to it is unacceptable.

A successful solution for nutrition assistance is the responsibility of government and the charitable sector, a combination of the two working together. Charitable organizations have greater flexibility to address the needs of their communities in ways the Federal government is often not able to do by being accountable to the family in need and not the government program. Charitable organizations have strong community ties and often operate programs on the government’s behalf. For many of these organizations, food assistance is only part of their mission and is seen as a means, not just an end.

We all want to address hunger in America. To do that, we must focus on serving individuals and families in need, and less on who or what is providing the assistance. The organizations we will hear today are doing just that, and there is a great deal to learn.

I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today as we explore how charitable organizations augment Federal nutrition programs in delivering critical food assistance across the county. 

f t # e
Tags: SNAP