Meng and Espaillat Urge Senate to Allow Hot Food for SNAP Program

Jul 23, 2020
Press Release
Lawmakers lead bipartisan letter calling on the chamber to adopt language from the House-passed HEROES Act that would allow SNAP beneficiaries to purchase hot food
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Reps. Grace Meng (NY-06) and Adriano Espaillat (NY-13) led a total of 65 Members of Congress in sending a bipartisan letter to the Senate calling for the chamber to include language in its next COVID-19 relief bill that would permit Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) beneficiaries to use their Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards to purchase hot food for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic. The correspondence comes after a provision allowing for hot food purchases was included in the most recent House-passed COVID-19 relief package, the HEROES Act. The letter was sent to Senate leaders and the chair and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.
Before this national health crisis started, over 37 million people participated in SNAP to buy food each month and of this number, nearly 70 percent include children, the elderly, or those with disabilities. Providing flexibility to SNAP participants will ensure families struggling during this unprecedented time have flexibility to put nutritious food on the table.
“Caring for the most vulnerable during a national health crisis must be Congress’ top priority as it works to craft another coronavirus relief bill,” said Rep. Meng. “I want the Senate to adopt language that would allow SNAP participants to purchase hot food. This would expand options for millions of families and ensure everyone can have a hot meal. This is not the time to add additional burdens to those suffering; EBT benefits must meet the needs of the moment. I’m honored to lead this effort with Congressman Espaillat and have the support of so many colleagues. I urge the Senate to do the right thing.”
“As communities around the globe face ongoing challenges due to the coronavirus, our efforts to provide relief and recovery must first address the needs of the most vulnerable among us,” said Rep. Espaillat. “The global COVID-19 pandemic has only further exacerbated the many hardships families face, and it remains vital that we extend SNAP benefits to ensure these families do not face further barriers when providing food and hot meals for their families during these challenging times.”
“As I’ve seen in my work with World Central Kitchen, a hot meal is more than just calories – it represents dignity and hope for the future,” said Chef José Andrés. “As so many of our fellow citizens face difficult moments of food insecurity, USDA’s hot food waivers represent the flexibility that families, essential workers, and the nearly 40 million Americans who rely on SNAP benefits to buy food each month deserve.”
"SNAP is our nation's first line of defense against hunger,” said Nicholas Buess, Associate Director for Mobilization and Policy at Food Bank For New York City. “As the Senate considers much-needed relief, our priority must be protecting low-income families from hunger. Strengthening SNAP by increasing benefits and removing harsh barriers that limit access to this survival resource is key. We stand with Representative Meng by calling on the Senate to include all enhancements for SNAP that the House has called for in the HEROES Act."
“The convenience store industry thanks the bipartisan members of the House who support language in the stimulus package allowing the purchase of hot foods by SNAP recipients during the pandemic,” said Anna Ready Blom, Director of Government Relations at the National Association of Convenience Stores. “As families juggle multiple responsibilities – caring for loved ones who have fallen ill, teaching and caring for children who are not in school, working full-time or searching for work, and surviving day-to-day – we believe it’s important for Congress to make burdens lighter, not heavier. Allowing SNAP families to purchase hot foods would give them needed flexibility during the public health emergency. ”
A copy of the correspondence can be viewed here and the text is below.
Dear Majority Leader McConnell, Minority Leader Schumer, Chairman Roberts, and Ranking Member Stabenow:
As you consider the next COVID supplemental bill, we write to urge you to include the following hot food SNAP eligibility exception in the Senate package, which was included in the HEROES Act:
“During the period beginning 10 days after the date of the enactment of this Act and ending on the termination date of the COVID-19 public health emergency, the term “food”, as defined in section 3 of the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 (7 USC 2012), shall be deemed to exclude “hot foods or hot food products ready for immediate consumption other than those authorized pursuant to clauses (3), (4), (5), (7), (8), and (9) of this subsection,” for purposes of such Act, except that such exclusion is limited to retail food stores authorized to accept and redeem supplemental nutrition assistance program benefits as of the date of enactment of this Act.”
Prior to the COVID-19 public health crisis, 37 million Americans relied on SNAP benefits to buy food each month. Of the more than 37 million SNAP participants, nearly 70 percent are children, elderly, or have disabilities. The importance of this program cannot be understated: SNAP makes it possible for many of our constituents and neighbors to put food on their tables as they work toward financial stability. Unfortunately, in the midst of the crisis, over 17.8 million Americans are unemployed. No doubt, unemployment rates will continue to skyrocket.
Under normal circumstances, SNAP benefits cannot be used to purchase hot food; however, allowing flexibility for the duration of the pandemic would ease the burden families face to provide nutritious foods for their families. Further, for essential employees who qualify for SNAP and are risking their lives to maintain their jobs, the ability to purchase hot food will ease the burden of having to cook full meals during this stressful time. These waivers have been requested by governors of both parties across the country.
While food supply chains have become more stable since March, we are still seeing disruptions in the canned goods, meat, cheese, and egg markets. We cannot predict the impact of the next waves of the pandemic or how those who are the hungriest among us will fare.
This is not the time to add additional burdens to those suffering; EBT benefits must meet the needs of the moment. We urge you to include hot food exceptions to SNAP into the next COVID supplemental package.