Food stamp enrollment has surged by 6 million people since the pandemic hit the United States, said the USDA on Wednesday in its first update of SNAP participation in months. Some 42.9 million people received food stamps at latest count, the highest number since October 2017.
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.
As part of his $1.9 trillion coronavirus package, President-elect Joe Biden said on Thursday that the 15 percent increase in SNAP benefits approved last month should be extended through the end of this year. Biden, announcing his American Rescue Plan, vowed his administration would "tackle the growing hunger crisis in America."
A bipartisan Senate coronavirus relief package would increase SNAP benefits by 15 percent through April and provide additional funding for WIC and food donations to food banks, according to a summary released on Wednesday.
The USDA is trying to expand online grocery shopping for SNAP recipients by adding local and regional grocers to the program, said Agriculture deputy undersecretary Brandon Lipps. The USDA said over 1 million SNAP households shopped online in September, out of more than 22 million households participating in the program.
Last week, the USDA extended a series of flexibilities in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children for the duration of the Covid-19 public health emergency. The waivers for the program, commonly known as WIC, have allowed participants to apply for benefits remotely rather than in person, and expanded both pickup options and the scope of eligible products. (No paywall)
House Democrats proposed on Monday a $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package that included a one-year increase of SNAP benefits by 15 percent, $1 billion in payments to livestock and specialty crop producers, and a requirement for USDA to report to Congress in advance of major outlays.
The USDA on Monday extended a series of flexibilities in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children for the duration of the Covid-19 public health emergency. Pandemic-related waivers for the program, commonly known as WIC, have allowed participants to apply for benefits remotely, expanded pick-up options, and broadened the scope of eligible products.
Three Southern states — Virginia, Kentucky and Arkansas — are among the eight states nationwide with the lowest SNAP participation rates, says the Food Research and Action Center. The coronavirus pandemic "is exacerbating the already alarming rates of food insecurity in the Southern region," said a FRAC report that recommends expansion of federal nutrition programs, such as SNAP, WIC and school meals, to meet the need.
The USDA’s senior nutrition official, Brandon Lipps, announced an enhanced focus on program integrity for the agency’s 15 public nutrition programs, which include SNAP, school meals, and WIC.