WASHINGTON, May 19, 2010 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced new resources designed to increase participation and expand access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, including new promotional materials proclaiming "We Welcome SNAP Benefits." The new display will be used nationwide by retailers participating in the program, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program. The department is also premiering the SNAP Retail Locator, an online search tool to help recipients locate a SNAP-authorized store near their home or workplace. USDA Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon made the announcement today on Vilsack's behalf in an address to officials from the National Grocers Association, Food Marketing Institute, and Electronic Funds Transfer Association.
"Underscoring that SNAP benefits are welcome, rather than merely accepted, signals an important change in the way both retailers and program participants view these benefits," Vilsack said. "These new tools will allow us to improve access and increase participation in SNAP, which serves as a vital resource to the most vulnerable Americans. Breaking down barriers to participation will help the Obama Administration deliver on its goal of reducing hunger and improving nutrition across the country."
SNAP benefits, which are now provided to recipients electronically, help low income families put healthy food on the table and provide an economic stimulus that strengthens communities. Research shows that every $5 in new SNAP benefits generates as much as $9.20 in economic activity. While SNAP benefits are administered by states, they are 100 percent federally funded and move quickly into local economies, with 97 percent of SNAP benefits redeemed within a month.
The new SNAP Retailer Locator is designed to help recipients find local stores that welcome SNAP benefits. The tool is intended to offer assistance to program recipients, State eligibility workers, community organizations - such as food banks - and others providing assistance to those in need.
"The SNAP Retail Locator will make it easier for SNAP participants, especially those who may be new and unfamiliar with the program, to gain access to food," said Under Secretary Concannon. "The new resource is another critical step in improving access to SNAP by providing participants with information to make more informed shopping choices."
Improving USDA's child nutrition programs are a top priority of the Obama Administration. Congress is currently considering legislation to bolster the Child Nutrition Act, which authorizes the National School Lunch, School Breakfast, and Summer Food Service Programs. These programs serve nearly 32 million children each school day and work in concert to form a national safety net against hunger. Improving the Child Nutrition Act is the legislative centerpiece of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! Campaign and highlighted in the White House report Solving the Problem of Childhood Obesity Within a Generation released Tuesday, May 11. By passing strong reauthorization legislation, with the full $1 billion annual increase requested in President Obama's budget, the Administration hopes to reduce hunger, promote access, and improve the overall health and nutrition of children throughout the country.
The Obama Administration has proposed an historic investment of an additional $10 billion over ten years, which would encourage improvements in the use of direct certification so that more children on SNAP are automatically enrolled for free school meals, enable training for school food service workers, upgrade kitchen equipment, and provide additional funding for meal reimbursements for schools that are enhancing nutrition and quality. This investment will allow additional fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat and fat-free dairy products to be served in our school cafeterias, and an additional one million students to be served the healthy diets in school.
USDA's Food and Nutrition Service administers 15 nutrition-assistance programs, including SNAP and the school meal programs that touch the lives of one in four Americans over the course of a year. These programs work in concert to form a national safety net against hunger. The largest program, SNAP, puts healthy food on the table for 39.7 million people each month. Visit www.fns.usda.gov for information about FNS and nutrition assistance programs.