Friday, February 27, 2015


The House Agriculture Committee this week began a full-scale review of SNAP.  Committee Chairperson Michael Conaway hinted that he thinks changes may be needed.  He began the hearing by stating, "SNAP has grown from a relatively small pilot program to the second largest federal welfare program, quadrupling in spending since 2001…. The program itself has largely not changed in the last 30 years, despite significant changes in the nation's economy and the socioeconomic makeup of the American population. While the economy has changed and other welfare programs have adjusted to meet changing needs, it does not appear that SNAP has.”

In response, Robert Greenstein, president of the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities said that SNAP has played the central role in eliminating severe hunger and malnutrition in this country. He pointed out that SNAP’s benefits are relatively modest, averaging about $1.40 per person per meal. Benefits are also highly targeted by need.  92% of SNAP benefits go to households with monthly incomes below the poverty line, 57% to families below half the poverty line. And, while SNAP participation and costs have grown in recent years most analysts have found the biggest reason by far is the economy followed by an increase in the share of eligible families — especially low-income working families — who participate. In 2002, only 43% of eligible low-income working families participated.  In 2012, 72% did.

Source: Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, 2/25/15, SNAP Review