Hayes Leads as Chairwoman of First Hearing on SNAP, Challenges Elected Officials to End Hunger and Increase Access to Food and Government Assistance for Families
WASHINGTON - On Wednesday, May 26, Congresswoman Jahana Hayes led her first hearing as Chairwoman of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Nutrition, Oversight, and Department Operations. The hearing titled "The Future of SNAP: Moving Past the Pandemic” was held to recount the lessons learned about food security and nutrition access during the COVID-19 crisis –and also to use those lessons as a roadmap for closing policy gaps which left so many Americans food insecure.
Hayes, once a SNAP recipient, like many other U.S. Representatives present during the hearing highlighted the benefits of the program. Both Democrat and Republican members shared personal experiences surrounding this issue. The Members welcomed five witnesses of varying backgrounds to share their expertise on the topic, and the sentiment was positive, relatable, and empowering.
The hearing was held during a day focused on ending hunger, as an op-Ed co-authored by Hayes and Representative McGovern (D-MA), was published on CivilEats.com titled, “ Hunger is a Political Decision. We Can Work to End It.” The op-ed proposes “for the White House to hold a substantive, policy-based conference focused on ending hunger throughout the United States by 2030… The last and only White House conference on hunger was held in 1969—the same year we landed a man on the moon. While far from perfect, the conference was responsible for the creation and expansion of vital anti-hunger safety net programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), and the National School Lunch Program (NSLP).”
Hayes then joined a press conference to spotlight the Stop Child Hunger Act, a bill she co-led with U.S. Representative Mike Levin (D-CA) and U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, focused on expanding the Summer EBT and Pandemic-EBT programs beyond school days to ensure children are no longer without food when class is not in session. The program would increase their access to food during holidays, school closures, and natural disasters or another pandemic.
“Hungry children were oftentimes the students that passed through my classroom doors. As a teacher, I did all I could because I knew the impact of empty bellies on learning and engagement. Child hunger is not only a policy failure, it is a moral failure,” said Hayes.
“There are massive gaps in our nutrition safety net leaving children vulnerable to the effects of food insecurity – especially during COVID-19 related school closures, summer breaks, and holiday vacations. Ensuring all children have access to nutritious meals, at school and home, is critical to ending child hunger. The Stop Child Hunger Act will make the Summer EBT program nationwide and permanent ensuring food access for all children – including the over 115,000 children in food insecure households in Connecticut. I am grateful that this proposal is supported and will work with Representative Levin to ensure the passage of this critical legislation.”
Before the pandemic, the overall food insecurity rate in the U.S. was the lowest it had been in more than twenty years, yet more than 35 million people, including 11 million children, were food insecure. In many ways, the pandemic shed a brighter light on the inequities that have always existed in the United States. Hunger is an issue the Congresswoman cares deeply about and will continue to work on.
Congresswoman Jahana Hayes sits on the Committees on Education & Labor and Agriculture and proudly represents Connecticut’s 5th District. She was a public school teacher in Connecticut for more than 15 years and was recognized in 2016 as
the National Teacher of the Year.