A conversation about SNAP and the pandemic


Bread for the World speaks with new mom Jane Adams about the role SNAP and other domestic safety-net programs can play in mitigating the effects of COVID-19. Adams is a senior domestic policy analyst at Bread.

Q. An increase in funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) was not part of the relief package passed by Congress in late March to help Americans struggling with the coronavirus. Explain why it is necessary that Congress increase funding for SNAP in the next relief package? How does SNAP alleviate hunger?

A. The poorest individuals are most vulnerable to increased food insecurity during increased unemployment and a struggling economy; however, they are the least likely to receive financial assistance from the government.

SNAP is one of the most effective ways to reach low-income households and provide help in recessions. That is why we are recommending Congress immediately increase the SNAP maximum benefit by 15 percent.

Increasing SNAP benefits help people afford nutritious food throughout the month, especially when people are staying at home and are unable to regularly get food from other sources like schools and restaurants. 

Q. Aside from an increase in funding for SNAP, what other domestic programs should Congress fund to help mitigate the effects of the coronavirus in the United States?

A. Schools are closed across the United States, which means that low-income children are not receiving free and reduced-price breakfast and lunch. Fortunately, Congress passed the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Program (P-EBT) in the Families First Act. To offer P-EBT, each state must develop a plan for how it will identify eligible children and get benefits to them quickly, and USDA must approve it.

Families already getting SNAP benefits will get the P-EBT benefits automatically on their SNAP card. Families that are not on SNAP but were getting either free or reduced-price meals will also get benefits on a new card. Most states have completed their P-EBT plans.

Unfortunately, P-EBT is temporary and ends when the school year ends. We are asking Congress to extend the Pandemic EBT program throughout the summer as well, so kids can get the food they need during the summer months.

Q. You’re a new mom. Congrats! You gave birth to beautiful baby girl earlier this year. How does being a mother change or enhance your perspective on the role nutrition plays in people’s lives?

A. My daughter lost 11 percent of her birth weight during the first week of her life. Our pediatrician put us on a rigorous nursing and formula supplementation schedule so she could gain weight. I found myself so stressed that my child was not getting enough nutrition. Yet, I recognized how blessed I was to have access to health insurance and to afford formula. Counting ounces and praising God each time she gained weight was such a new experience for me.

It certainly made me feel a sense of solidarity with mothers all over the world who are desperately trying to get their children the nutrition they need.

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