A bipartisan trio of U.S. House members introduced bipartisan legislation that would allow Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to be used to purchase hot foods and certain prepared foods, which are currently not covered by SNAP.
U.S. Reps. Bobby L. Rush, D-Ill.; Grace Meng, D-N.Y.; and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa.; announced the introduction of the SNAP PLUS Act of 2021 (H.R. 6338), on Wed., Dec. 22. Rush’s office said in a statement that 40.8 million Americans rely on SNAP benefits, according to the most recent public data.
“I grew up in a single-parent household,” Rush said. “My mother worked hard to provide for us, but my family was always on the edge financially and, at times, we relied on government benefits to get by.”
Rush related how he remembers many times when he wouldn’t have a decent meal for dinner. “So, I understand the importance of food security programs firsthand,” said Rush. “It is clear to me — and to families I have heard from who are facing food insecurity in the (Illinois) 1st District and across the nation — that the exclusion of hot and prepared foods under current SNAP criteria is impractical, misguided and unwise.”
Buying Hot Food With SNAP
The fact that SNAP recipients can use the program’s benefits to purchase a frozen, breaded chicken, but not a hot rotisserie chicken or a salad from a grocery store salad bar, Rush said, makes no sense.
“This restriction is most harmful to individuals who may be experiencing homelessness, recovering from a natural disaster, or otherwise lack convenient access to a kitchen or the ability to heat up foods — in other words, people who are among those most in need,” Rush explained. “The SNAP PLUS Act will remedy the disparity in how hot and prepared foods are treated under SNAP.”
Rush thanked Meng and Fitzpatrick for their support in introducing what he called vital bipartisan legislation just in time for Christmas.
“Congress must ensure that families can afford to put food on the table and make the right dietary choices for themselves and their families — not just during the holiday season, but every day,” said Rush.
Abby J. Leibman, president and CEO of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, said that the COVID-19 pandemic presented unprecedented food security challenges for families across the country and Congress responded by allowing states to apply for purchasing flexibilities.
“The SNAP PLUS Act would modernize SNAP to better reflect the reality of working families on SNAP, who often rely on hot foods, like a rotisserie chicken, to provide a nutritious and convenient meal,” Liebman added. “We are proud to support this bill to ensure that SNAP benefits adequately support SNAP recipients today, while also addressing out-of-date and discriminatory restrictions on allowable purchases using SNAP benefits.”
Rush is a member of the House Agriculture Committee and has long fought to strengthen and expand SNAP. More than 20 % of households in Illinois’ 1st District rely on SNAP benefits to help make ends meet, his office said.
In the early 1970s, Rush helped create and administer the Free Breakfast for Children Program in Chicago as a member of the Black Panther Party. By 1972, the program was feeding 25,000 children across the nation free breakfast every morning before they went to school. The Black Panther Party’s program was an impetus for the USDA to launch the federal School Breakfast Program in 1975, which today helps feed more than 14 million children.