The House Agriculture Committee began a series of hearings last week to review the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a program that provides benefits to one in five Americans and costs $74 billion annually. Congress is also gearing up to reauthorize the Child Nutrition Act programs, including the School Lunch and Breakfast Programs, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), because the current authorization for those programs expires on October 1, 2015.
On SNAP, the House Agriculture Committee is expected to continue to review the program over the coming months. According to Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX), SNAP is the largest program under the committee's jurisdiction. He said the hearing kicked off a broad "top to bottom" review that will be completed "without preconceived notions and with a commitment to strengthening the program."
Two public policy experts testified at the first hearing. Robert Greenstein, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and Douglas Besharov, professor at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy, discussed the program's history, participation demographics and work requirements.
Vilsack Defends SNAP Program
Earlier this week, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack defended the SNAP program. While speaking before an audience at the Food Research and Action Center, Vilsack said SNAP helps lower poverty rates and improves childhood health and education. He also noted that the SNAP error rate is among the lowest in government.
Related to the Child Nutrition Act programs, members of the School Nutrition Association were on Capitol Hill lobbying for greater regulatory flexibility and a 35-cent increase in the federal meal reimbursement rate. Legislation to implement part of SNA’s proposal was introduced by Senator John Hoeven (R-ND). The proposed bill would maintain current sodium reductions in the school lunch program, avoiding any further reductions, and restore the 2012 requirement that at least half of all grains offered with school meals be whole-grain rich as opposed to the current 100 percent whole grains requirement.
According to Senator Hoeven’s office, if additional sodium reductions are implemented, schools would have a difficult time meeting the lower targets.
Milk Naturally Low in Sodium
Milk is naturally a low-sodium food, said Cary Frye, IDFA vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs, and noted that many reduced-fat and reduced-sodium cheeses are available and used on entrees like pizza to meet the current sodium levels in school meals.
For further information on nutrition program legislative issues, contact Ruth Saunders, IDFA vice president of policy and legislative affairs, at firstname.lastname@example.org.