Chairman Bishop Statement at the Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services, USDA Hearing
Congressman Sanford Bishop (D-GA), Chair of the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks at the Subcommittee's hearing on the USDA's Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services:
Good morning and welcome to today’s hearing on USDA’s domestic nutrition assistance programs.
Testifying before the subcommittee today is Stacy Dean, the Deputy Under Secretary of the Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services.
Although you have only been on the job since January 21st, you have a profound understanding of USDA’s domestic nutrition programs, stemming from your work at the Office of Management and Budget and later at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
You have certainly hit the ground running and I thank you for being here to discuss the latest developments and the opportunities and challenges ahead.
FNS is responsible for overseeing 15 domestic nutrition assistance programs that comprise the nation’s nutrition safety net. Each year, millions of the nation’s most vulnerable populations rely on these programs to feed their children and put a good, healthy meal on the table. This past year, with millions out of work and school, we saw how vital these programs are.
COVID-19 and the resulting economic fallout disrupted life for everyone. For tens of millions it greatly exacerbated hunger and food insecurity. In many cases, programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) were the difference between having food or skipping a meal. For some, it was their first time needing assistance of this kind. To me, it underscores the absolute necessity of continuing to invest in and improve these programs.
It is worth taking a moment to look at SNAP and TEFAP to understand the magnitude of the crisis. Before the pandemic hit, there were around 38 million monthly SNAP participants. In September 2020, there were nearly 43 million SNAP participants. And to date, P-EBT has helped 16.8 million children. For fiscal year 2021, we provided an additional $80 million for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), a program that supplements the diets of low-income seniors. And through several COVID-19 supplementals, Congress has appropriated more than $1.2 billion for TEFAP.
And I’m sure we all remember seeing pictures and news reports of people waiting in miles-long lines at food banks. These images are jarring and it is essential to remember that behind these pictures are real families that are trying to figure out how they are going to make it through today, tomorrow, and the week ahead.
To its credit, FNS has issued more than 4,000 program waivers and flexibilities to adjust to local needs and maximize access for all eligible families. This includes the nationwide extension of several waivers that allow all children to continue to receive nutritious meals this summer when schools are out of session through Sept. 30, 2021. I was also glad to see that USDA recently increased emergency SNAP benefits for 25 million people. For my home state of Georgia, that means an additional $38.8 million in monthly benefits, which will make a measurable difference in peoples’ lives.
I’m also looking forward to hearing your thoughts on WIC, Pandemic-EBT, the SNAP Online Purchasing Program, and nutrition assistance in the territories.
As you can tell, there is a lot to discuss today. I again want to thank our witness, Deputy Undersecretary Dean for being with us and I look forward to our discussion.