SNAP

Five Things to Know about SNAP and the 2018 Farm Bill

June 22, 2018
  • Update December 13, 2018 CONGRESS GOT IT DONE: The Farm Bill passed in the House on a 369–47 vote, with protections for families and children receiving SNAP. Learn more in this summary from the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC).
     
  • Update December 12, 2018: The Senate passed its version of the bill on a vote of 87–13.

Advocates for children and families are celebrating some wins in the 2018 Farm Bill. The version passed in Congress did not include controversial cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps.

Congress ultimately rejected a proposed a version of the Farm Bill that would have forced states to impose work requirements for food stamps on older workers (ages 49 to 59) and for parents with children ages 6 to 12, which Mathematica Policy Research estimated would lead to cuts for 1.1 million households.

Advocates are watching what the Trump administration does next, as it has signaled it may attempt to restrict benefits or add work requirements independently of Congress. The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), an anti-hunger and anti-poverty organization that works across the US, notes that "there is more work to do in the years ahead to make SNAP fully address the nutritional needs of the millions of people in this country struggling against hunger and to improve their food security and health."

From the Center on Budget & Policy Priorities #SNAPworks series:

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Here’s a look at how the “Farm Bill” (also known as the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018) affects all of us, especially young people, children and low-income families.

The Farm Bill is a broad piece of legislation that is updated and renewed by Congress (a process known as “reauthorization”) every five years. It includes food and agriculture programs such as crop insurance and subsidies and rural development. It also includes the national Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. Formerly known as “food stamps,” SNAP provides nutrition assistance to more than 40 million American’s each year. Nearly half of all SNAP program participants are children.

SNAP is our nation's most important anti-hunger program.

Historically, Farm Bills have been reauthorized with bipartisan support, thanks in part to the longtime urban-rural coalition of lawmakers and advocates who come together in support of SNAP and agriculture programs. At times, however, the reauthorization process becomes contentious.

This is one of those times. The version of the Farm Bill passed by the House Agriculture Committee on April 18, 2018, makes changes to SNAP that advocates for children and young people say will jeopardize critical nutrition programs and risk harming rural communities. Among those changes: cutting SNAP funding and imposing a new, stricter work requirement for participation in SNAP.  

The Impact of SNAP

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, is our nation’s most important anti-hunger program. It provides food to 40 million Americans each month. Close to half of all participants are children, and over half of all non-elderly, non-disabled adult participants live with children.

SNAP is now modernized with an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) system. The benefits on the EBT card can be used to purchase food at one of the 260,000 retailers authorized to participate in SNAP, such as grocery or convenience stores. SNAP cannot be used to purchase alcoholic beverages, cigarettes, vitamin supplements, hot foods, or non-food grocery items such as household supplies.

The current Farm Bill passed the House Agriculture Committee on a party-line vote. Among the provisions in the bill: expanding the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Program (FINI) to provide $275 million over five years to help extend SNAP to farmers’ markets, and increasing funds for a pilot program to incentivize grocers to discount dairy and fresh produce. But the bill would also make it harder for many participants to access SNAP by imposing strict new work requirements.

SNAP already requires that able participants be working, looking for work, or engaging in job-related support services.  In more than half of SNAP households with at least one working-age, non-disabled adult, that adult is working. Work rates are even higher for families with children: more than 60 percent of participants with children work while receiving SNAP.

As the Farm Bill heads to the House of Representatives this week, here's what you need to know about how it affects children, low-income families and people of color:

  1. SNAP is the country’s most effective anti-hunger program, helping 1 in 8 Americans afford a basic diet. Despite providing modest benefits averaging about $1.40 per person per meal, it combats food insecurity, alleviates poverty, and has long-term positive impacts on health as well as on children’s educational attainment.

    In 2016, some 19 million children received SNAP each month, accounting for 44 percent of all SNAP participants.
     
  2. The Farm Bill would cut SNAP benefits for more than one million low-income households with more than 2 million people – particularly low-income working families with kids.
     
  3. Children and young people in working families would lose. The Farm Bill’s new proposals would re-impose a benefit “cliff” on families who receive a small increase in earnings. It would also implement strict work requirements, shorter “buffer” periods after losing a job, and a work test that would result in many families losing access to SNAP, even if they are working.

    Research shows that adults who received food stamps as young children are more likely to graduate from high school and less likely to suffer long-term health problems like obesity and heart disease.
     
  4. African American households are disproportionately affected by food insecurity: Nearly one-quarter, or 22.5 percent, were food-insecure in 2016—nearly double the national average of 12.3 percent and more than twice the 9.3 percent rate for white households.

    Food insecurity has well-documented negative effects on maternal and infant health.
     
  5. Assistance programs like SNAP (food stamps) and WIC (a specialized nutrition program for Women, Infants and Children) are both linked to positive health outcomes for women, especially African American women.

 

On June 21, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass its version of the Farm Bill (HR 2) by a vote of 213-211. The bill includes cuts and changes to hunger and nutrition programs that advocates say could impact 2 million people, including changes to SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) eligibility and school breakfast and lunch programs.

The Senate version of the Farm Bill does not make these same harmful cuts and structural changes. Please take a moment to contact your Senators - depending on where you live, you'll get a custom message based on your Senators' position on S. 3042. Advocates say it is important that the Senate bill be as strong as possible, so that some of the harm to children and families may be reversed during the reconciliation process.

Please visit SparkAction's Action Center, create your quick login, and use our Farm Bill alert to contact your representatives today! For more details on the legislation why it matters, read on below the video.

 

Take action here!

    Find out more about SNAP and the Farm Bill from these trusted experts: