Federal Policy Priorities
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
The nation’s largest federally-funded nutrition assistance entitlement program must be protected, strengthened and streamlined to maximize its impact on hunger. New efficiencies and the provision of adequate resources will enable the program to meet the needs of struggling individuals and families and preserve SNAP’s ability to respond in times of economic downturn or disaster. Through legislation and USDA administrative changes, action can and should be taken to:
1. Maintain the core principles and integrity of SNAP:
- Protect the entitlement status of SNAP and prevent conversion of the program to a block grant.
- Keep intact the federal commitment to pay 100% of SNAP benefits.
- Ensure that fees are not imposed on retailers who accept SNAP.
2. Expand the number of people who are eligible to participate in SNAP:
- Maintain state flexibility to utilize “expanded categorical eligibility” to waive the asset test and set gross income tests.
- Maintain no more than current ABAWD time limit rule (i.e prevent adding new populations, tightening requirements, or restricting state flexibility to issue waivers).
- Clarify the legal definition of the military’s Basic Allowance for Housing so it will not be counted as income when determining eligibility for SNAP.
3. Maintain and increase the adequacy of benefits provided through SNAP:
- Improve the adequacy of monthly SNAP allotments by using USDA’s Low Cost Food Plan in place of the Thrifty Food Plan when calculating SNAP benefit amounts.
- Maintain minimum benefit allotments.
- Prevent the imposition of a cap on benefit allotments for larger households.
- Maintain state flexibility to provide a nominal LIHEAP benefit to the neediest low-income households, in order to maximize benefit allotments.
- Maintain state flexibility to determine and set annual Standard Utility Allowances.
- Allow all SNAP households to deduct their actual shelter costs as part of SNAP budgeting.
- Implement a Standard Medical Deduction.
- Maintain food choice for SNAP recipients, and prioritize incentives to purchase more produce.
Child Nutrition Programs
The core principles and integrity of child nutrition entitlement programs, specifically the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), School Breakfast Program (SBP), Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), and Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), should be maintained, and any effort to limit program effectiveness and resources through block-granting should be rejected. Through federal administrative and legislative changes, action can and should be taken to:
1. Reauthorize Child Nutrition programs
with timely and comprehensive legislation that ensures access to meal programs for all eligible children. The authorization for these federally-funded child nutrition programs expired in September 2015 and is currently being maintained through a Continuing Resolution.
2. In-School Meals Programs:
- Increase the SBP and NSLP reimbursement rates for meals served to align with new meal pattern regulations that have caused increased costs for meal providers beyond the additional six cents they receive for following the regulations.
- Provide a higher per-meal school breakfast reimbursement rate for schools adopting breakfast after the bell models to incentivize districts to utilize these methods to increase SBP participation and help with potential associated start-up costs, such as additional labor, carts, or items for the classroom.
- Eliminate the reduced-price copayment of 30 cents for breakfast, and implement a corresponding increase in reimbursements to schools, thereby removing a significant financial barrier for low-income families.
- Improve and streamline direct certification for free school meals:
- Improve direct certification to increase the number of low-income children who are directly certified for free school meals by virtue of their participation in other means-tested programs. Require school districts to directly certify all categorically eligible children.
- Require states to incorporate Temporary Assistance to Needy Families and Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations data into current data matching systems.
- Require schools to formalize coordination with homeless liaisons, migrant education coordinators, Head Start program coordinators, and local foster care agencies.
- Extend categorical eligibility to children in all military households that receive the Family Subsistence Supplemental Allowance for free meals to be directly certified.
- Protect and maintain the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) at its current threshold of 40% Identified Student Percentage for eligibility.
- Reinstate flexibility for states to allow schools to adopt CEP for the coming school year beyond the June 30th deadline.
- Protect and maintain the school nutrition standards in reauthorization.
3. Meals Beyond the K-12 School Day:
- Ensure the CACFP reimbursement rates for meals and snacks served align with new meal patterns that strengthen the nutritional quality of meals and snacks, to sustain providers’ viable participation.
- Streamline access to child nutrition programs:
- Align the eligibility requirement with the Department of Education’s Title 1 and 21st Century Community Learning Center programs.
- Expand the SFSP area eligibility threshold from areas where 50% of students qualify for free or reduced-price school meals to areas where 40% of students qualify for free or reduced-price school meals.
- Improve the area eligibility test by allowing child care providers to receive the higher Tier I reimbursement if 40 percent of the children in the neighborhood are eligible for free or reduced-price meals.
- Increase flexibility and explore other options to provide nutrition support to children with limited access to congregate feeding models outside of school.
- Implement a Summer EBT for children qualified for free/reduced price school meals.
- Provide funding for start-up grants for mobile meals and other innovative strategies for rural and other hard-to-reach communities.
- Give funding priority for federal grants to programs that sponsor/operate all eligible child nutrition programs.
- Allow all SFSP sites the option of serving a third meal.
- Restore CACFP child care centers’ and homes’ option to serve a third meal (typically a supper or snack) to children in their care for 8 hours or more.
- Streamline/simplify the administration of programs beyond the K-12 school day to improve program access.
- Allow local government agencies and private non-profit organizations to feed children year-round through the SFSP.
- Establish a “provision 2” option that would align CACFP with NSLP, streamlining paperwork and maximizing access to technology for parents, programs and sponsors.
- Extend area eligibility to child care centers in CACFP.
- Reauthorize a representative work group to guide CACFP paperwork reduction efforts.