Participation in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) saw widespread declines during the pandemic, continuing a trend that took hold over the past decade due to significant enrollment hurdles. The declines contrasted with the sharp rise in demand for programs like SNAP and Medicaid. (No paywall)
The Biden administration earmarked $4 billion on Tuesday to strengthen the U.S. food system, including an expansion of local and regional food processing capacity. Aiming to increase competition, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said he hoped to see "new entries" in the highly concentrated processing sector.
The 90-day limit on food stamps for able-bodied adults without children, enacted as part of welfare reform in 1996, failed to move people into jobs or increase their incomes after the Great Recession, said a USDA study released on Tuesday. "The findings should prove relevant as the economy recovers and states begin to re-introduce the time limit" after the pandemic, said the researchers who carried out the study.
Textile mills and specialty crops will get three-fourths of the $330 million announced by the USDA on Tuesday in a broad-ranging program to help producers and the food supply chain recover from the financial impacts of the pandemic. In addition, the package earmarked $75 million in grants to help low-income Americans buy fruits and vegetables.
Two months into the pandemic, roughly $1 in $8 spent on groceries in the United States came from the federal food assistance programs, SNAP and the newly created Pandemic EBT (P-EBT), compared to $1 of every $14 beforehand, said the USDA on Tuesday.
State agriculture officials called for continuation of USDA's $5.5 billion food box give-away program, now under review by the Biden administration. "With some enhancements, we can extraordinarily expand the benefits of the program by allowing more producers to contribute and increasing the amount of food we can share with families in need," said Barb Glenn, chief executive of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA).
U.S. anti-hunger programs should address the twin challenges of nutrition — supplying enough food and encouraging diets built around healthy food — at the same time after decades of focusing on a lack of food for poor Americans, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Wednesday.
Boosted by a landslide confirmation vote in the Senate, Tom Vilsack will begin his second stint as agriculture secretary on Wednesday facing problems from the pandemic and climate change to rising hunger rates in America. His own list of goals is much longer and each item on it is a blockbuster.
Congress can reduce hunger during the pandemic by extending the 15 percent increase in SNAP benefits and providing an additional $3 billion for WIC, as suggested by President Biden, said Sen. Bob Casey to the Consumer Federation of America on Tuesday. "We have to stay on that path where we're focused on substantial investments" in public nutrition.