WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Chairwoman Jackie Walorski (IN-02) convened her first Subcommittee on Nutrition hearing. The committee met to further examine the role of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in relation to other federal assistance programs in a hearing titled, “SNAP Recipient Characteristics and Dynamics”.
During the 114th Congress, the subcommittee will oversee food and nutrition related issues including the SNAP and domestic commodity distribution and consumer initiatives.
“I’ve seen hunger firsthand both as a missionary in Eastern Europe and in my own district,” Walorski said. “Over the next two years, we’ll explore the entire SNAP program and find ways to better serve families and taxpayers across the United States to ensure no child goes hungry.”
Today’s hearing provided members with background information from key experts to gain a better understanding of families and communities who depend on SNAP as they begin a full-scale review of the program and its recipients.
Witnesses at the hearing included:
- Karen Cunnyngham, Senior Researcher, Mathematica Policy Research, Washington, DC
- Gregory Mills, Senior Fellow, Urban Institute, Washington, DC
- Stephen Tordella, President, Decision Demographics, Washington, DC
- James P. Ziliak, Founding Director, Center for Poverty Research, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY (Minority Witness)
Walorski’s Opening Statement as Prepared for Delivery:
Good afternoon and welcome to this year’s first meeting of the Nutrition Subcommittee. Thank you all for making time in your schedules to be here and thank you to today’s witnesses for your participation.
Today, I would like to give you a glimpse of what lies ahead for this subcommittee over the next two years as we review SNAP.
Before we begin, I want to take an opportunity for everyone here to understand my background and why this issue and this subcommittee is important to me.
First and foremost, I am a lifelong Hoosier and I have dedicated my career to helping Hoosier families.
After I married my husband, we made the decision to move to Romania where we created and ran a local foundation and spent four years providing resources to impoverished children across the country.
I know what starvation looks like both internationally and in my own district and how it affects families and communities.
And when I read that one in six Americans is hungry, it reaffirmed my commitment to ensure no child or adult endures what I’ve seen others go through.
In order for us to be successful, it’s imperative that we first review the SNAP program to better understand what works and what doesn’t.
The full committee yesterday examined why a review of SNAP is so important – it’s the largest welfare program in both the number of recipients and the amount of spending, yet the program lacks a clear mission and the data reveals that it is not helping lift people out of poverty.
It is my hope and expectation that this subcommittee, along with the work done at the full committee, will explore and gain a better understanding of the entire program and specifically its recipients to find unmet needs and areas of overlap.
The SNAP program does not function by itself and many other factors contribute to its ultimate success.
That’s why it’s so important that this subcommittee focus our efforts on understanding how SNAP can best serve families and children across the United States.
What’s very clear to me, and what I hope becomes clear to you in the coming months, are the many layers of bureaucracy that exist within SNAP.
Currently 18 different programs provide food assistance, and while many of them do not fall within this committee’s jurisdiction, they do serve SNAP recipients.
In addition, a range of low-income benefit programs are offered at the local, state and federal levels. On top of that, a web of non-profits and community service providers exist to provide assistance.
While I recognize the government’s role in this process, there are wonderful local organizations, like St. Margaret’s House and the Food Bank of Northern Indiana that help to feed Hoosiers in my district and provide support to families and children in need.
This is why understanding the overlap and unfamiliarity of local programs will help us decide how to best provide support and services to families in need.
In the coming months we’ll be able to tackle these issues and more.
But today is about understanding those families in need. Who they are, what has brought them to the program, and how long they have remained in the program so we better understand how to serve them.
Today is not about policy recommendations; it’s about understanding the diverse characteristics and dynamics of the more than 46 million Americans who receive benefits from this program each month.
Over the coming months, our review will include a range of stakeholder perspectives, including current and former recipients; non-profits, states and localities, the food industry, and nutrition experts to name a few.
Today we will hear from a panel of distinguished researchers who have all conducted well-documented studies using trusted government data sources.
In most cases, the research has been funded by the Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service, which oversees the administration of SNAP.
I want all the members to know that I am always available if you want to offer any input as we move forward.
I thank all of our witnesses for being here with us today and look forward to their testimony.
Walorski represents the 2nd Congressional District in Indiana, where she serves as a member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, House Armed Services Committee, and House Committee on Agriculture.