By Margaret Hardin
WASHINGTON—Federal legislators announced yesterday the introduction of a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives that would allow Americans participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to purchase hot, prepared foods, which are currently barred from purchase in the program. The bipartisan bill, the Hot Foods Act (H.R. 3519), was introduced by Representatives Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) and Andrew Garbarino (R-N.Y.) with a total of 30 original co-sponsors.
“Families throughout America rely on SNAP benefits to make sure they have enough food for their children. Restricting a working mom by only allowing her to buy a frozen rotisserie chicken, but not a hot prepared one, is nonsensical and wrong,” said Rep. Meng. “The Hot Foods Act simply removes the prohibition from purchasing hot foods in SNAP. This reform will provide recipients the flexibility they need to provide the most nutritious meal possible to their family.”
SNAP, designed over 50 years ago, restricts the purchase of hot and prepared foods. However, the variety of food available for purchase and the habits and needs of American consumers have changed drastically since the 1970s. Busy two-income households and single-parent households relish the ability to purchase convenient, hot and prepared meals—such as rotisserie chicken, soup or a hot sandwich—as they juggle multiple responsibilities. This is particularly important for the 42 million SNAP participants, 70% of which are children, elderly or have disabilities.
“Millions in the United States rely on SNAP to supplement their purchase of healthy and nutritious foods, and those families deserve greater flexibility with how they are able to utilize their benefits,” said Rep. Fitzpatrick. “Especially for our workers and families on-the-go, prepared foods are a good and readily available source of nutrition. I am proud to partner with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in introducing the Hot Foods Act to reasonably expand food options and continue to strengthen the impact of SNAP for those who deal with food insecurity each day.”
The SNAP Hot Foods Act will remedy the disparity in how hot and prepared foods are treated under SNAP. Under the current rules, a customer can purchase a cold sandwich with SNAP benefits from a SNAP authorized retailer, but if the sandwich is heated or toasted, it cannot be purchased. This legislation would allow the same sandwich to be purchased regardless of the temperature. Removing the hot foods restriction is a commonsense update to modernize the program to better reflect how Americans shop and eat today and to provide SNAP participants with helpful choices.
The legislation would only apply to SNAP eligible retail stores and would not apply to restaurants.
NACS is asking its members to reach out to their Members of Congress and ask that they co-sponsor the SNAP Hot Foods Act and support removing the hot foods restriction. You can contact your legislators by visiting the NACS Grassroots portal.
Margaret Hardin is NACS manager of government relations. She can be reached at [email protected].