Opening Statements

Opening Statement: Chairman K. Michael Conaway: Past, Present, and Future of SNAP: The Retailer Perspective

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Washington, May 12, 2016 | comments

Remarks as prepared:

I want to welcome our witnesses to today’s hearing and thank them for taking the time to share their perspectives as retailers serving SNAP recipients. This hearing, like those before, builds upon the committee’s top-to-bottom review of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP,  so as the committee approaches reauthorization, we will be positioned to make meaningful improvements to the program — improvements to benefit recipients, taxpayers, and those working as critical partners in carrying out the program.

We often say the states are on the front lines of serving SNAP recipients, but one could argue it is the stores providing food that directly interact with their customers on a monthly, weekly, or even daily basis. Retailers are keenly aware of the challenges their customers face as they shop in grocery stores, whether it be trying to provide the proper nutrition for their families or how best to maximize their budgets.

Today, we will hear from a variety of retailer businesses, ranging from a convenience store to a national large grocery chain, about the various challenges and opportunities both retailers and recipients experience interacting with SNAP. We will discuss the process for becoming an authorized SNAP retailer and how that varies from single store operators to franchised grocery chains and the initiatives taking place within stores to promote healthy food purchases. Furthermore, we will evaluate the opportunities with technology, as well as the various challenges facing rural communities and how retailers are serving those areas.

From color coded stamps to the current EBT system, technology has come a long way since the Food Stamp Program was created in 1963. Technology is ever changing. Today, food manufacturers are working to provide smart labels on packages that allow customers with cellphones to see ingredients, possible allergens, and genetic technology used to produce the food item. Credit card companies are now placing a chip into debit cards for more secure transactions. As technology evolves, we must ensure that SNAP is able to take advantage of these innovations, while still ensuring program integrity is intact.

We also have seen that the way in which consumers shop is evolving. As my colleague from Michigan referenced in our last nutrition subcommittee hearing, many grocery stores now offer a wide selection of ready to consume or prepared meals. With these new food options and various new purchasing opportunities available, consumer shopping patterns are changing. We are beginning to see more consumers who prefer to shop for their groceries online, such as the elderly who have difficultly shopping in a store, parents that work two jobs and have limited time, or those who just prefer the convenience. Retailers are adjusting to meet their customer demands.

For those individuals living in rural America, accessing food can be quite the challenge. I know from my own experience traveling around Texas’11th district, how rural some parts of the country can be and how far a person may have to travel to reach a grocery store. We as policymakers must be cognizant of the various laws we consider and regulations that are proposed to ensure that Washington is not making it harder for families to put food on the table, but instead allowing SNAP to adapt to these changing trends.

I want to thank our witnesses for taking the time to be here today to share their perspectives “from the grocery aisle.”

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Tags: SNAP