Opening Statements

Opening Statement: Chairman K. Michael Conaway: Past, Present, and Future of SNAP: Evaluating Effectiveness and Outcomes in Nutrition Education

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Washington, June 22, 2016 | comments

Remarks as prepared for delivery: 

I want to welcome our witnesses to today’s hearing and thank them for taking the time to share their impressive collaborative experience working to improve the diets and health among families across the country through nutrition education. 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 concludes our review, we will be positioned to make meaningful improvements to the program. As the committee with jurisdiction over USDA, it is one of our principal responsibilities to oversee these programs to ensure they are working most effectively for the recipient, community leaders, and the American taxpayer. 

In this hearing we will discuss the history and evolution of the SNAP-Ed program, which is the nutrition education arm of SNAP; specific program models and interventions; how SNAP-Ed compliments and works with other nutrition education programs, such as the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program, or EFNEP; and efforts currently taking place that put greater emphasis on measuring outcomes to ensure dollars are used effectively.

As a component of the overall SNAP program, the mission of SNAP-Ed is to “improve the likelihood that persons eligible for SNAP will make healthy choices within a limited budget and choose active lifestyles consistent with the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans.” This is no short order. More than two-thirds of adults and nearly one-third of children and youth are overweight or obese. About half of all American adults—117 million individuals—have one or more preventable chronic diseases, many of which are related to poor quality eating patterns and physical inactivity. These high rates of overweight and obesity and chronic disease have persisted for more than two decades and come not only with increased health risks, but also at a high cost. In 2008, the medical costs associated with obesity were estimated to be $147 billion.

There is no silver bullet to these serious health issues. It’s a complex problem that will likely take a multi-prong approach. While obesity cannot be tied solely to socioeconomic status, it can be linked to food insecurity. It will take a collaboration between policy makers, state and local organizations, business and community leaders, schools, childcare and healthcare professionals, and individuals to create an environment that supports a healthy lifestyle for all Americans - and that’s what we want to achieve. Throughout our review of SNAP, we have consistently heard that community engagement and collaboration are key in addressing many of the challenges communities face. Responses at the local level are more reactive and able address the individual needs in their neighborhoods. I am eager to hear from our witnesses today how they have leveraged federal resources to improve the nutritional quality and overall health of low-income families in their communities.

Historically Congress has supported and invested in prevention programs, such as SNAP-Ed and EFNEP, which educate and promote healthy eating habits to prevent long-term health related expenses, and empower low-income individuals to cook nutritious meals on a budget. In addition to nutrition education, this February the Agriculture Committee held a hearing to review the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive, or FINI, program which aims to increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables. These approaches seem to each have their place in promoting proper nutrition, but as we get closer to concluding our review of SNAP, are there alternative ways in which we can improve overall health outcomes?

Again, I want to thank our witnesses for providing their expertise and working with the Agriculture Committee to ensure SNAP recipients are given a recipe for successful health.
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Tags: SNAP