Opening Statements

Opening Statement: Republican Leader Don Bacon Nutrition, Oversight, and Department Operations Subcommittee Hearing: The Future of SNAP: Moving Past the Pandemic

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Washington, May 26, 2021 | comments
Remarks as prepared for delivery:

Good afternoon, and welcome to our witnesses. Thank you for taking the time to share your knowledge, experiences, and advice on how to best move forward in our mission to ensure those in need have access to SNAP.

Based on the title of this hearing, I am hopeful we can use today to discuss not only the Department’s emergency response to COVID-19, but where improvement is needed, and how we can better serve our communities.

First, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on this subcommittee’s previous work related to SNAP. I believe there are four themes to consider as Congress shifts from emergency spending and programming to more informed and thoughtful policy:

  • Serving recipients through innovation and flexibility in program delivery;
  • Pursuing independence through employment and training;
  • Returning to and maintaining program integrity, and;
  • Improving access and promoting healthy foods and improved nutrition.

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that there are myriad opportunities for serving families; there is no one way to guarantee nutritious foods make it into the hands of those who need it.

Whether it be the significant expansion of online pilots, or the utilization of new distribution channels through the Farmers to Families Food Box Program, we need to think bigger about how to ensure qualified households not only have access to the benefit and relevant services, but can use them in a way that reflects 2021, not 1972.

And while work waivers granted under the former and current Administrations were logical in response to COVID-19, they are now clearly keeping employable individuals idle and disengaged, which reaps significant negative impacts on families who want nothing more than to earn a living.

If the Department and states are serious about inspiring hope and change in the lives of SNAP recipients, then it is high time to utilize the resources associated with SNAP Employment and Training, as well as state-based employment readiness services, to do just that.

And a word of advice to anyone listening—these programs must emphasize a multi-generational approach. We are long past trying and testing siloed programming.

As it relates to integrity and the principles of SNAP, many facets of quality control have been waived throughout the pandemic. As the program shifts to a post-pandemic world, these waivers need to expire as written and states should return to normal modes of data collection just as the Department should return to normal modes of analysis.

Lastly—and something I believe strongly in—is access to and consumption of healthy foods. Diets cannot be improved without sufficient access to healthy foods. Employment, including military readiness, healthcare costs, and general longevity are highly dependent on the foods we consume.

Together with improved nutrition education initiatives, the nutrition research funding secured in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, and the existing library of research on healthy eating, USDA is positioned to improve the nutrition of millions of households.

As we approach the next farm bill, it is also time to rethink targeted and beneficial healthy eating incentives and more effective nutrition education strategies that help all families.

All that to say, I am excited about where we go from here. I thank the audience for their indulgence, and look forward to our witness testimony.

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