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House Subcommittee Holds Nutrition Assistance Program Hearing

On July 15, the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Nutrition held a hearing, “Past, Present, and Future of SNAP: Developing and Using Evidence-Based Solutions.” This is the seventh in a series of hearings on nutrition assistance programs, in general, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), in particular (see The Source, 6/26/15).

Chair Jackie Walorski (R-IN) stated, “As we continue these discussions, I want to reiterate this process is not just about the bureaucracy behind SNAP, it’s about helping people. We’re here to ensure people get a job, support their family, and ultimately become financially independent…Unfortunately, most of the research currently funded by the Department of Agriculture revolves around the process, like application timing and accuracy, and recipient characteristics, such as gender, age, and family composition. This approach misses the forest through the trees. Instead, the department must move beyond the basics of measuring the ‘number served’ and develop new data points that focus on outcomes like well-being, changes in earnings, and family stability. This shifts the conversation from ‘serving the most’ to ‘being the best’ [and] leads to better outcomes for more people because we’re better able to judge what works and what doesn’t.”

James Weill, president, Food Research and Action Center, stated, “The first and most significant set of findings is that SNAP fulfills its core purpose: it reduces food insecurity and malnutrition, and that result is crucially important to the nation as a whole and to every state and community.” Mr. Weill explained that “in one seminal analysis published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, and looking at the long-term effects of SNAP, exposure to SNAP in early childhood increased women’s economic self-sufficiency in terms of greater high school graduation rates (18 percent higher), higher earnings, and lower rates of welfare receipt in adulthood.” He continued, “SNAP also helps support families by improving housing security. Families receiving housing subsidies, SNAP, and WIC benefits are 72 percent more likely to be housing-secure compared to those families receiving housing subsidies alone.”

The following witnesses also testified:

  • Jon Baron, vice-president, Evidence-Based Policy, Laura and John Arnold Foundation;
  • Jim Sullivan, professor of Economics, University of Notre Dame and Lab for Economic Opportunity; and
  • Jeremy Everett, director, Texas Hunger Initiative.
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