In Focus: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

Sep 17, 2014  |  PERMALINK »

House Holds Hearing on SNAP E&T Pilots

By Helly Lee

Today, the House Committee on Agriculture hosted a hearing on the  Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Employment and Training (E&T) pilots created by the 2014 Farm Bill. United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Vilsack was called to testify before the Committee on the implementation of the pilots.

As we mentioned in a recent blog post, USDA released their Request for Applications (RFA) for the pilots on August 25th. While the implementation of the pilot program is still in its early stages, it was clear at today’s hearing that Congress will be looking at the pilots for innovative and successful strategies that will inform future policy making.  In his testimony and in his answers to the members’ questions, Secretary Vilsack reiterated a few key points:

  • The purpose of the pilots is to better understand the barriers that SNAP participants face and help get more people into work and prepare them for better jobs. The majority of SNAP participants who can work already do, but do not make enough to lift them out of poverty.
  • The guidelines put forth in the RFA cast a wide net for innovative ideas and proposals from states and are designed to allow states and local partners the room to propose creative strategies to help reduce the number of people who need SNAP.
  • There is great emphasis on collaboration. The RFA requires a commitment from applicants to collaborate with State workforce and job training programs. USDA encourages proposals which include strategies that engage workforce, SNAP and other partners.

Secretary Vilsack also mentioned the work that he has already done to engage the Department of Labor and his efforts to directly connect with Governors across the country to inform them of this pilot opportunity. He observed that many Governors told him that they had not been aware of the pilots. This highlights the need for state advocates to also engage high level policymakers to ensure they are aware of the pilots and the opportunity to develop innovative strategies that support SNAP participants.

The deadline for applications is November 24. Applicants may submit questions regarding the RFA to USDA by this Friday, September 19th. USDA asks states intending to apply to submit a letter of intent by following Friday, September 26th.

For more information about SNAP E&T and the pilots, visit CLASP’s SNAP E&T resources page.

Sep 4, 2014  |  PERMALINK »

Economy Slowly Recovers but Millions Still Hungry

By Helly Lee

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released its Household Food Security in the United States in 2013 report, which revealed that more than 49.1 million people (or 14.3 percent of households), including 15.8 million children, struggled with food insecurity in 2013. Those with food insecurity had difficulty at some time during the year in providing enough food for all their household members due to a lack of resources. These numbers are a slight change (but not statistically significant) from the 14.5 percent of households that were food insecure in 2012. In 2013, 6.8 million households (5.6 percent) faced very low food security, meaning that one or more household members experienced reduced food intake and disrupted eating patterns at times during the year.

While the food insecurity rates were largely unchanged from the previous year, the report shows that there’s still much to be done to alleviate hunger across the country. Food insecurity remains significantly higher than the 11.1 percent rate in 2007 before the recession.

The rates and severity of food insecurity also vary by location. For example, states like Arkansas (21.2 percent), Mississippi (21.1 percent) and Texas (18 percent) ranked highest among food-insecure households, well above the national rate.

There are also large disparities in the rates of food insecurity across racial and ethnic categories. While 10.6 percent of White, non-Hispanic households experienced food insecurity in 2013 (below the national rate of 14.3 percent), Black (26.1 percent) and Hispanic (23.7 percent) households experienced significantly higher food insecurity than the national rate and more than double that of White households.

Households with children also experienced food insecurity at a much higher rate (19.5 percent). This is concerning because scientific evidence shows that children need to have adequate nutrition to excel in school and grow. Recent research by Children’s HealthWatch reveals that, when compared to children under the age of four who were food secure, young children at risk of food insecurity were 56 percent more likely to be in fair or poor health, and 60 percent were more likely to be at risk for developmental delays. 

The release of USDA’s report is a reminder that while the economy is slowly recovering, millions still struggle to make ends meet and put food on the table. Federal nutrition programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the National School Lunch Program and the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program remain critical supports for families and children who do not have access to adequate nutrition. However, even as the needs remain, continued threats can weaken the reach of these vital programs. In November 2013, nearly every SNAP household endured a cut when Congress failed to enact legislation to extend the 2009 Recovery Act’s boost (a maximum monthly benefit increase by 13.6 percent) to the benefits, further compromising the food security of households already struggling economically.

Congress has the opportunity to strengthen vital federal child nutrition programs in the upcoming year through the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act and through steadfast protection of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in future policymaking.  

Sep 2, 2014  |  PERMALINK »

SNAP Employment and Training Pilots an Opportunity for Innovative Strategies

By Helly Lee

Last week, the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) posted their Request for Application (RFA) for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Employment and Training (SNAP E&T) Pilots. Passed earlier this year, the 2014 Farm Bill reauthorization includes $200 million for the creation and evaluation of three-year pilot projects testing innovative SNAP E&T strategies in up to 10 states. Approximately $165 million will be awarded to the pilot projects, with grants ranging between $5 million and $25 million.

The RFA solicits applications from any of the 53 State agencies (including the District of Columbia, Guam, and the Virgin Islands) that administer SNAP and are interested in competing for funding. State agencies may apply on behalf of one or more county-administered SNAP agencies; they may also submit multiple applications that propose different project ideas.

The pilots are intended to build upon and enhance existing SNAP E&T activities. States must commit to at least the same level of funding for their SNAP E&T program as they did in Fiscal Year 2013 for each year of the pilot. States must also commit to cooperating with an evaluation, which will be conducted by a contractor selected through a separate request for proposals.  As CLASP has strongly advocated, the RFA also requires that states collaborate with workforce and other job training programs in the state and local area.

State SNAP agencies have until September 26,, 2014 to submit a letter of intent to apply for the pilots. The final application must be submitted by November 24, 2014. FNS will announce grantees by February 23, 2015, and the winners will be expected to have programs operational by October 2015

These pilots will allow states to develop and highlight innovative SNAP E&T models that help SNAP participants secure good jobs that reduce their need for benefits. Since the Farm Bill’s passage, CLASP has been encouraging interested states and advocates to consider promising strategies they may want to pilot and lay the groundwork for  potential partnerships among state workforce agencies, community colleges, and local community-based organizations. We have also highlighted innovative strategies that are already being implemented in Washington and Minnesota.

To learn more, read CLASP’s updated brief. We will continue to engage stakeholders to support innovative partnerships between SNAP and workforce programs.  We must make the most of this unique opportunity to help eligible SNAP participants get jobs and increase their earnings.

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