Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand held a video press conference to discuss her recipe for improving nutrition and to address food insecurity ahead of the 2023 Farm Bill. More than 33 million people in the United States live in households that are food insecure, with roughly 2.9 million people in New York relying on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, and food prices are only expected to climb. Gillibrand’s priorities to combat food insecurity and increase access to nutritious meals in the Farm Bill include strengthening SNAP benefits, expanding the SNAP program to people living in Puerto Rico, and ensuring disadvantaged populations always have a pathway to food. Gillibrand’s announcement follows her questioning of USDA officials at a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing where she pushed experts on the importance of maintaining adequate SNAP benefits, improving the SNAP Employment & Training program, improving the Healthy Food Financing Initiative, and more.
“We live in the richest nation in the world and over 33 million Americans are still struggling with food insecurity,” said Senator Gillibrand. “This Farm Bill, my goal is to enhance SNAP benefits in territories and the continental U.S., break down barriers to nutritious food, and keep food on the table for all Americans. Hunger in the United States is simply unacceptable and I’m fighting for commonsense legislation to combat food insecurity across the country.”
Senator Gillibrand’s nutrition bills:
Closing the Meal Gap Act: Despite the ongoing success of the SNAP program, roughly half of all households receiving SNAP benefits are still food insecure. SNAP benefits are based on the restrictive Thrifty Food Plan, which inadequately calculates benefits for today’s low-wage workers and their families. According to the 2021 USDA Household Food Security report, the typical U.S. household spent 15 percent more on food than the cost of the Thrifty Food Plan. The Closing the Meal Gap Act would help to address these issues by raising the baseline benefit for all SNAP households, allocating more funds to those with large medical and housing expenses, and increasing access to the program. Specifically, this bill would increase the baseline for SNAP benefits, eliminate eligibility limits, and eliminate the cap on the Excess Shelter Deduction in the SNAP formula.
Puerto Rico Nutrition Assistance Fairness Act: Under current law, Puerto Rico does not participate in SNAP and instead receives a block grant to fund its nutrition assistance programs. This bill sets out a process to enable Puerto Rico to participate in SNAP rather than the currently utilized Nutrition Assistance Program block grant.
Training and Nutrition Stability Act: Under current law, jobseekers in SNAP Employment and Training or Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) programs who receive SNAP benefits risk losing their nutrition security because of their status earning a wage in temporary job training or work-based learning. This bill would allow jobseekers in these programs to maintain their nutrition benefits, which can help lead to permanent employment and self-sufficiency.
Enhance Access to SNAP (EATS) Act: Today’s SNAP eligibility rules for students are overly complicated and only include college students working 20 hours per week or participating in a federal or state work study, or those who meet very specific exemptions. This bill would expand SNAP benefit eligibility to all college students attending 2- and 4-year universities part-time or more who meet traditional SNAP income and other eligibility requirements.
Military Family Nutrition Access Act: The recent Department of Defense report “Strengthening Food Security in the Force: Strategy and Roadmap” found that 24% of active duty service members experience food insecurity, posing a threat to military readiness and national security.This bill excludes the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) from income calculations used to determine SNAP eligibility.
Food Bank Access to Farm Fresh Produce Act: According to Feeding America, the number of people receiving charitable food assistance jumped 33% between 2019 and 2021, and food banks are continuing to see higher demand in response to rising food prices. This bill would help meet this demand bycreating a new program to provide specialty crop block grants through states’ departments of agriculture for distribution to food banks and food access networks to use for the purchase of fresh fruits and vegetables directly from farmers.