At a Senate Food Nutrition, Specialty Crops, Organics and Research Subcommittee hearing today, Sen. John Fetterman, D-Pa., the subcommittee chairman, and Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., the subcommittee ranking member, expressed their priorities on reauthorization of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and other nutrition programs in the farm bill.
Fetterman, who was chairing a Senate hearing for the first time, said in the various political offices he has held he has learned that “SNAP is one of the most effective programs to fight hunger.” He added, “Hunger is not a Republican or a Democratic issue. We need to come together and stop playing political games with Americans’ access to food.”
But Fetterman also said that constituents have been talking to him about being victims of “skimming” in which they lose their SNAP benefits because someone else accessed them.
Braun said he looks forward to working with Fetterman for bipartisan solutions, but he quickly added that members of Congress want to make sure “we are getting value” out of whatever is proposed.
Braun said he plans to introduce a bill to allow SNAP beneficiaries to use part of their benefits to get a food box of fruit, vegetables, meat and eggs in order to improve their health. During the early stages of the pandemic, the Trump administration distributed food boxes. They were popular with beneficiaries, but Democrats said it would have been better to increase SNAP benefits.
Braun said he will also introduce a bill to connect SNAP beneficiaries with work. He said that half of the category of SNAP beneficiaries called Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents who are waived from work requirements live in areas where there are plenty of jobs.
In a veiled reference to Republican proposals to increase work requirements, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said, “Newsflash: SNAP has work requirements.” Stabenow noted that the work requirements were suspended during the pandemic but that the suspensions will end in July.
Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., ranking member on the full committee, noted that most farm bill spending now goes to nutrition programs.
A series of witnesses from nutrition groups and food banks testified about their views on how the programs could be updated.