Congress SNAP USDA

Stimulus for Urban Food Systems

Congress appropriated $28 billion (3.5%) of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 for the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). Of the USDA total, the Act provides $19.7 billion to increase the monthly amount of nutrition assistance to 31.8 million people through a 13.6% increase in the monthly Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – or food stamp – benefit for recipients, amounting to roughly $80 per family per month. The additional funds under the SNAP program will not only help individuals feed their families better, but will stimulate local economies. According to the USDA, for every five dollars spent through SNAP, $9.20 of local economic activity is generated.

The increased SNAP benefit will begin to be distributed on April 1, 2009. In addition, the recovery act provides about $300 million to help states administer SNAP, with the first $145 million released this month.

In an essay in City Limits magazine, I suggest that with the right local policies that enable SNAP recipients to spend their benefits on healthy, locally produced food, particularly fresh fruits and vegetables, these stimulus food dollars can be stretched further to enhance the resilience of the city’s food system.

Congress Food Banks Legislation Schools

School Food Recovery Act

On March 9, 2009, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) introduced H.R. 1403, the School Food Recovery Act, which requires schools participating in the school lunch program to donate any food not consumed to local food banks or charitable organizations. Wolf claims that despite the 1993 Good Samaritan Act, which protects donors who give to food banks in good faith from all liability, many school districts have been unwilling to donate excess food, primarily due to administrative resistance and a misperception that federal regulation doesn’t allow it. The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Education and Labor.

Congress Legislation Schools

Child Nutrition Promotion and School Lunch Protection Act of 2009

On March 5, 2009, Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) introduced H.R. 1324, the “Child Nutrition Promotion and School Lunch Protection Act of 2009.” The bill would require the development of new science-based federal nutritional standards governing all foods and beverages sold outside of school meal programs but within the boundaries of school campuses. These standards would apply to foods sold at any time during the extended school day, including when activities are held that are primarily under the control of a school or a third party on behalf of a school. The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Education and Labor.