What Are the Benefits of the SNAP Program?

Last week, we joined MomsRising for their regular #FoodFri Twitter chat. The topic for this chat: the benefits of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as SNAP, for American families. We joined as co-hosts with our friends at Food Resource Action Center (FRAC), and the Center on Budget Policy and Priorities.

Below are NCLR highlights from the chat. Join MomsRising for their #FoodFri chat every Friday at 1 pm ET.


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How Federal Nutrition Programs Impact Latino Children and Families

There are 4.7 million Latino children living in families that struggle to consistently put food on the table. Latinos also face increased risk of developing a chronic disease like diabetes and heart disease. March marks National Nutrition Month, and it gives us an opportunity to highlight important federal efforts to address hunger, improve access to healthy and nutritious food, and increase the ability for America’s children and families to live healthier lives.

In particular, federal nutrition programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and child nutrition programs, like school meals, are especially critical for the health and well-being of the Latino community. To help you better understand these federal programs, we’ve put together an update on them, as well as the impact these new developments could have on the health of families and communities around the country.

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Weekly Washington Outlook — November 16, 2015

U.S. Capitol

What to Watch This Week:

Congress:

House:

The House will vote on Monday on legislation under suspension of the rules:

H.R. 308 – Keep the Promise Act (Sponsored by Rep. Trent Franks / Natural Resources Committee)

]H.R. 1694 – Fairness to Veterans for Infrastructure Investment Act of 2015 (Sponsored by Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick / Transportation and Infrastructure Committee)

H.R. 3114 – To provide funds to the Army Corps of Engineers to hire veterans and members of the Armed Forces to assist the Corps with curation and historic preservation activities, and for other purposes (Sponsored by Rep. Grace Napolitano / Transportation and Infrastructure Committee)

H.R. 1073 – Critical Infrastructure Protection Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Trent Franks / Homeland Security Committee)

H.R. 3144 – Partners for Aviation Security Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Donald Payne / Homeland Security Committee)

H.R. 1338 – Dignified Interment of Our Veterans Act of 2015 (Sponsored by Rep. Bill Shuster / Veterans’ Affairs Committee)

H.R. 1384 – Honor America’s Guard-Reserve Retirees Act (Sponsored by Rep. Tim Walz / Veterans’ Affairs Committee)

S. 599 – Improving Access to Emergency Psychiatric Care Act, as amended (Sponsored by Sen. Cardin / Energy and Commerce Committee)

S. 799 – Protecting Our Infants Act of 2015 (Sponsored by Sen. Mitch McConnell / Energy and Commerce Committee)

H.R. 2583 – Federal Communications Commission Process Reform Act of 2015, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Greg Walden / Energy and Commerce Committee)

Concur in the Senate Amendment to H.R. 2262 – SPACE Act of 2015 (Sponsored by Rep. Kevin McCarthy / Science, Space, and Technology Committee)

H.R. 1317 – To amend the Commodity Exchange Act and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 to specify how clearing requirements apply to certain affiliate transactions, and for other purposes (Sponsored by Rep. Gwen Moore / Financial Services Committee)

H.R. 3032 – Securities and Exchange Commission Reporting Modernization Act (Sponsored by Rep. Kyrsten Sinema / Financial Services Committee)

S. 2036 – Equity in Government Compensation Act of 2015 (Sponsored by Sen. David Vitter / Financial Services Committee)

H.R. 1478 – Policyholder Protection Act of 2015 (Sponsored by Rep. Bill Posey / Financial Services Committee)

Concur in the Senate Amendment to H.R. 208 – RISE After Disaster Act of 2015 (Sponsored by Rep. Nydia Velázquez / Small Business Committee)

In addition, the House may consider a short-term extension of the Highway Trust Fund.

On Tuesday, the House will vote on H.R. 511 – Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act of 2015 (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Todd Rokita / Education and the Workforce Committee).  The House will also vote on a motion to go to conference on legislation reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

On Wednesday and the balance of the week, the House will consider the following:

H.R. 1737 – Reforming CFPB Indirect Auto Financing Guidance Act (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Frank Guinta / Financial Services Committee)

H.R. 1210 – Portfolio Lending and Mortgage Access Act, Rules Committee Print (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Andy Barr / Financial Services Committee)

H.R. 3189 – FORM Act of 2015, Rules Committee Print (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Bill Huizenga / Financial Services Committee)

Senate: On Monday afternoon, the Senate will consider a judicial nomination.  Later in the week, the chamber will take up legislation blocking two Environmental Protection Agency Regulations, S. J. Res. 23 and S. J. Res. 24.  

On Wednesday, the Senate has scheduled a procedural vote on S. 2193, sponsored by Sen. Cruz (R-TX).  The legislation would establish new mandatory minimum sentences for illegal re-entry into the United States.

White House:

On Monday, the president will attend a G20 meeting on financial regulation, international tax, anti-corruption, and a G20 working lunch on trade, energy and the adoption of the Communique and Antalya Action Plan. In the evening, President Obama will hold a press conference before departing Turkey en route Manila, Philippines.

On Tuesday, the president will arrive in Manila, Philippines. In the afternoon, President Obama will tour the BRP Gregorio del Pilar. In the afternoon, the president will also participate in a meeting with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of the Commonwealth of Australia.

On Wednesday, the president will hold a meeting with President Benigno Aquino of the Philippines. Later in the morning, President Obama will deliver remarks at a CEO Summit. In the afternoon, the president will take a family photo and participate in a meeting on the Trans-Pacific Partnership with the leaders of the TPP countries. Later in the afternoon, President Obama will participate in a Pacific Alliance meeting. In the evening, the President will participate in an Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit (APEC) family photo and attend an APEC welcome dinner and cultural performance.

On Thursday, the president will participate in the APEC family photo and the opening session of the APEC retreat on inclusive growth through integrated economics. In the afternoon, the President will participate in a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada and attend the second session of the APEC retreat on sustainable and resilient communities. In the evening, President Obama will participate in a meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan.

On Friday, the president will depart the Philippines en route Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. In Malaysia, President Obama will participate in a Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) town hall.

On Saturday, while in Malaysia, the president will deliver remarks at the ASEAN business and investment summit. In the afternoon, President Obama will tour the Dignity for Children Foundation. Following the tour, the president will participate in a Civil Society roundtable at the Ritz Carlton and in the evening, President Obama participates in a US-ASEAN meeting. The president will also participate in a pull aside with Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic. Later in the evening President Obama will attend and participate in a family photo and the EAS gala dinner at the Kuala Lumpur City Centre.

On Sunday, the president will participate in an East Asia Summit family photo and meeting. In the afternoon, President Obama will hold a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of the Republic of Singapore. Later in the afternoon, the president will hold a press conference, before departing Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia en route Yokota, Japan on the way back to Washington.

Also this Week:

Education – This week, the House and Senate will appoint conferees to a committee to reconcile differences in House and Senate versions of legislation reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (last rewritten as No Child Left Behind).  The conference committee is expected to meet on Wednesday afternoon and Thursday and final legislation is expected in both chambers sometime in early December. Informal negotiations have been ongoing since the summer, leading to an agreement on a framework announced late last week. In a statement, the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the House Education and Workforce Committee and Senate HELP Committee said they “believe we have a path forward” toward a compromise between the House version, H.R. 5, and the Senate-passed bill, S. 1177.

Immigration – The Senate plans to take a procedural vote on Wednesday morning on S. 2193, “Kate’s Law.” The legislation sponsored by Sen. Cruz (R-Texas) would create two new mandatory minimum prison sentences for five years for certain immigrants who re-enter the country illegally. It would also increase the penalty for first-time illegal re-entry from two years to five years and create new penalties for those who have illegally re-entered three or more times. Earlier in the fall, the Senate voted on similar legislation from Sen. Vitter that would block certain federal funding streams in addition to establishing a mandatory minimum sentence; Democrats successfully blocked this bill.

Consumer Protections – The House will vote on two bills this week relating to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s regulatory authority.  The first, H.R. 1737 would over-ride the CFPB’s guidance on fair lending requirement for indirect auto lending.  The second, H.R. 1210 would broaden the definition of a “qualified mortgage,” granting additional liability protection to mortgage lenders. 

Law Enforcement – Attorney General Loretta Lynch will appear before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. This hearing was rescheduled from earlier in October.  Her remarks are expected to address issues facing the Justice Department, and law enforcement in particular. In the Senate, the Judiciary Committee’s Oversight, Agency Action, Federal Rights, and Federal Courts Subcommittee will also hold a hearing on Tuesday on the relationship among federal, state, and local law enforcement. 

Nutrition – The House Agriculture Committee has scheduled a hearing on Wednesday to review the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Budget – The House Budget Committee will hold a hearing on Wednesday on whether the Congressional budget process should shift from annual to biennial budgeting.  The Senate Budget Committee held a similar hearing earlier this fall. 

Poverty Can Influence the Childhood Obesity Epidemic

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Photo: LA Unified School District (creative commons license)

Childhood obesity has become a dangerous epidemic, especially among Latino children. There are many factors that play a role, but one of the worst is poverty: Latino children are three times more likely to live in poverty than White children, and children living in poverty are at higher risk of being obese.

The unfortunate reality is that low-income families face additional barriers to leading healthy lifestyles, resulting in weight issues that manifest themselves very early in life. For example, mothers who participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are much more likely to have overweight babies. Researchers believe this is related to the high proportion of sugar-sweetened items consumed through the program.

One barrier that occurs at the family level is food insecurity, which is defined as not having access, due to physical or economic constraints, to enough safe and nutritious foods to lead a healthy life. Nearly one-quarter of Latinos report not having enough food to eat. Families facing food insecurity tend to buy cheaper, less nutritious foods in order to stretch their budgets, and they may overeat at times when they do have access to food. Such up-and-down eating patterns can lead to metabolic changes that promote fat storage.

Food insecurity is just one of many stressors that disproportionately affect low-income families. Others include low-wage work, lack of access to health care, poor housing, and neighborhood violence. Parental stress is an especially powerful risk factor for obesity in the case of Latinos. One recent study found that insufficient sleep is also a risk factor for being overweight, and sleep deprivation is higher among families with lower incomes due to crowded homes and noisy environments that affect sleep quality.

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Another barrier, neighborhood-level poverty, can play an even more significant role than family poverty after age two. Low-income neighborhoods have fewer safe and pleasant places to play, and children living in them are less likely to be physically active. Violent crime and other neighborhood conditions such as trashed streets, stray dogs, and speeding cars likewise discourage outdoor active play. Such neighborhoods feature fewer markets and more fast food outlets, and people without access to reliable transportation cannot easily shop for food in other areas.

There are ways to counteract these forces, though. Various policy initiatives, such as tax credits, zoning incentives, and technical assistance, have been shown to improve the food environment in underserved communities by encouraging supermarkets and farmers markets to open there and corner stores to expand their offerings. Revisions to food subsidy programs, such as the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) food packages that offer healthier foods, have led to higher consumption of fruits and vegetables by children.

However, barely more than half of Latinos who are eligible for SNAP benefits actually use this resource due to a lack of awareness of the program, immigration concerns, and restrictions (SNAP has a five-year residency requirement, even for legal immigrants). A combination of outreach efforts and program design changes can overcome some of these constraints. NCLR is therefore teaching families about SNAP and other food assistance programs. Our goal is to make higher-quality, nutritious foods more accessible, thereby helping families climb out of poverty.