At CSPI, we envision a future with an equitable food system that makes nutritious, sustainable food available to all, where a healthy population of people has a reduced impact of preventable diseases.  

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the nation's largest federally funded food assistance program that over 40 million people rely on each month. It’s a powerful food safety net program that aims to improve participants’ food security and lifts millions of families out of poverty every year.  

Relatedly, food banks are another crucial piece of our food safety net system. While meant to be a last line of defense against food insecurity, food banks are a regular source of food for many families as other benefits fall short. In 2020, 60 million people turned to charitable food assistance and food banks are serving 55 percent more people than before the pandemic. Currently, there are no federal policies and few state policies affecting food bank donations that prioritize nutrition. 

We're following the latest policy updates that affect equitable access to nutritious food for millions of children, adults, seniors, and people with disabilities who participate in SNAP and utilize the charitable food system.

Celebrating federal and state legislation that expands equitable food access

Across the nation, federal and state legislators are taking steps to help improve equitable access to healthy food through SNAP and food banks. Here are six policies to be excited about:  

1. Nationally. In the House, Congress introduced the Find FOOD Act (HR 7317), which will increase incentives for donations to food banks. This includes tax deductions for the cost of transporting donated food and tax credits for donations by farmers. While CSPI would prefer Congress increase tax incentives specifically for nutritious food donations, incentivizing farmers to donate can lead to more nutritious donations, which align with the needs and preferences of food banks and clients. 

2. Rhode Island. The state legislature passed RI H7068 and RI S2317, which streamlines the application process for SNAP participants aged sixty years and over. This helps make a complex process much easier to complete and increases access for some of the most at-risk for food insecurity.  

3. New Hampshire. NH SB404, introduced by Sen. Becky Whitley introduced, passed in June 2022! This bill establishes a plan to develop a statewide SNAP outreach program to promote SNAP access to eligible persons.   

4 & 5. Louisiana. In Louisiana, we’re celebrating two policies that the state legislature passed in June 2022 to improve research and awareness on healthy food access: 

  • LA HB 888, sponsored by Rep. Barbara Freiberg, provides guidelines for postsecondary institutions to become designated as a Hunger-Free Campus to raise awareness and provide resources to address basic food needs.  

  • LA HCR35, sponsored by Rep. Tony Bacala, requests a joint study by various governmental agencies to examine the "benefits cliff" and their effect on public assistance beneficiaries.

6. New Jersey. Last and certainly not least, great news from the Garden State: NJ AR78 was signed into law. This piece of legislation, sponsored by Asm. Angela McKnight, urges the USDA to authorize permanent use of SNAP benefits for online purchases of food. This would greatly expand food access for SNAP participants, especially for those who have difficulty traveling to and from stores.

A pair of hands using a laptop, seen from above

SNAP online?

Before the pandemic, online SNAP was limited to a few select states and only available at specific retailers, including Amazon and Walmart. The expansion of online SNAP in response to COVID-19 allowed additional retailers to offer the service. A permanent expansion would increase SNAP access for rural communities or neighborhoods with few retail options, and to individuals who do not have access to transportation for grocery shopping.