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SNAP Employment and Training (E&T): USDA Study Finds Skills, Credentials Critical to Helping SNAP Participants Find Jobs

The vast majority of jobs in the future will require some level of education beyond high school.  Unfortunately, these jobs are out of reach for the majority of SNAP participants, who often lack the skills they need to compete in today’s job market.  To combat this challenge, USDA offers the SNAP Employment and Training (E&T) program. SNAP E&T, which is available in all states, is a skills and job training program designed to help SNAP participants prepare for and secure jobs that lead to economic self-sufficiency.  SNAP E&T programs provide SNAP participants the opportunities to gain skills, training and experience, which increase their ability to qualify and get hired for jobs with earnings high enough to transition off of SNAP.  A newly released SNAP E&T Best Practices report provides new insights into how states can strengthen SNAP E&T programs and make them more effective at helping SNAP participants gain the skills employers are seeking and support long-term self-sufficiency for SNAP participants. 

New SNAP E&T Initiatives Aim to Help SNAP Participants Find Jobs

Getting a good job these days takes more than good intentions because today’s jobs require a higher level of skills than ever before.  This is why the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program’s Employment and Training Program (SNAP E&T), administered by states across the country, has such an important role to play in helping SNAP recipients gain the skills they need to find and keep good jobs.  This is also why the U.S. Department of Agriculture is committed to supporting this effort.

USDA demonstrated that commitment in two new initiatives launched just this week, the SNAP E&T Learning Academy and a new website for the innovative SNAP to Skills Project, led by the Food and Nutrition Service. The Academy breaks new ground, as a first-ever opportunity that will help address an identified need. You see, though SNAP E&T programs operate across America, we’ve found that there is an opportunity for further sharing of best practices and lessons learned by developing resources that spread the knowledge base throughout the country. The two new projects launched this week will use a “train-the-trainer” model to create new leadership capacity to build the next generation of SNAP E&T programs.

SNAP Participation Shows Marked Decline

The number of people participating in USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) has been declining now for several years from a high of nearly 48 million people back in 2013 to a little more than 43 million in June. That is a drop of about 4.4 million people. This downward trend is encouraging but should come as no surprise. SNAP is designed to respond to the economy by expanding and contracting based on economic conditions. As the economy continues to grow and recover from the recession, recent data shows household incomes beginning to rise. I’m confident that we’ll see these numbers shrink even more.

The best way to keep the numbers of SNAP participants on a downward trend is to connect recipients with opportunities to develop skills for in-demand jobs in their communities. Many Americans have gained employment but still do not have an income high enough to transition off the program. SNAP Employment and Training (E&T) programs can help individuals find jobs that allow working families to make ends meet without public assistance.

SNAP-Ed Helps Spur Healthy Choices

March is National Nutrition Month. Throughout the month, USDA will be highlighting results of our efforts to improve access to safe, healthy food for all Americans and supporting the health of our next generation.

Encouraging all Americans to make healthy nutrition and lifestyle choices is a top priority for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). One of the most important ways we do that is through nutrition education provided by USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

SNAP-Ed delivers evidence-based, coordinated nutrition education and obesity prevention services and information to people participating in SNAP, as well as other eligible low-income families and communities.  Activities provided through SNAP-Ed encourage physical activity, work to improve nutrition, and prevent obesity.  These activities may include:

New Day, Same Mission: The Evolution of SNAP

This fall, USDA is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Food Stamp Act of 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson, which made the Food Stamp Program permanent.  In looking back over the past 50 years, there are two notable events in the program’s history that had a significant impact on the transformation of the original Food Stamp Program in 1964 to the program we know today as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

First, the Food Stamp Act of 1977 was a major program milestone, because it established national eligibility standards for participation and eliminated the purchase requirement for food stamps.  The new standards meant that the amount of benefits a household received depended on the household’s size, income, and expenses, a standard that remains today.  The elimination of the purchase requirement meant that people received their benefits upfront, without the intermediary step of purchasing the food stamp first.  The Food Stamp Act of 1977, therefore, removed a major barrier to participation in the program while also ensuring that benefits would be targeted to those most in need.  As a result, the mission of the Food Stamp Program to mitigate the effects of poverty was strengthened.

Commemorating the History of SNAP: Looking Back at the Food Stamp Act of 1964

On August 31, 1964, President Johnson signed the Food Stamp Act of 1964 as a centerpiece of his War on Poverty, which introduced numerous programs designed to improve the American quality of life for those struggling to make ends meet.  Due to the Food Stamp Act of 1964, the Food Stamp Program, now the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), became permanent. This action and others, such as the establishment of the Special Supplemental Program for Women, Infants, and Children (a program celebrating 40 years this year), resulted in marked improvement in the diets of the poor during the late 1960 and into the mid 1970s.  Media and public leaders like Robert Kennedy, Senator Robert Dole and Senator George McGovern shone a light on areas of America where hunger and malnutrition had previously been easy to miss, such as crowded urban centers and the tranquil rural countryside, and the programs responded.

MyPlate Has a Game Plan for Healthy Eating on a Budget

Everyone wants to save money at the grocery store, especially those on a tight budget. The new Healthy Eating on a Budget section of ChooseMyPlate.gov empowers cost-conscious consumers to make healthy choices with insightful information about meal planning, smart shopping ideas, and creating healthy meals with simple ingredients.  Web-based trends indicate that consumers continue to look for information about how to make better eating decisions with limited resources. Healthy Eating on a Budget offers a step-by-step game plan to help families save money and make nutritious meals at home.

Recent scores from the USDA Healthy Eating Index indicate that Americans can struggle to meet recommendations from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.  Most of us need to increase our intake of whole fruit, dark-green and orange vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat dairy.  Cost is often considered a barrier to eating healthier and the new resource will help consumers overcome this perception.

USDA, Partners Work to Expand SNAP Access at Farmers Markets

As spring marches closer, farmers markets across the country are ramping up or reopening for the season. In addition to year-round staples like local milk, meat, and grains, the stars of the season—asparagus, onions, new potatoes, lamb, and greens of all varieties—are beginning to make their debuts. In a few months’ time, the markets will be in full swing, bursting with berries and zucchini and other summer fruits and vegetables. Here at USDA, we’re working hard to ensure participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) have access to this healthful, local bounty.

Remarkable progress has been made in providing better access to the nation’s 8,200 farmers markets and farm stands; more than 4,200 markets and direct marketing farmers now redeem SNAP benefits.  Beyond providing heightened access to farmers markets, we know that coupling access with incentives to purchase healthy products while at the market helps SNAP recipients consume a healthy diet. A new report from USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service makes clear that private sector organizations share the goal of increasing access and incentives, and are willing to dedicate financial resources to ensuring the success of this approach. Researchers for the Farmers Market Incentive Provider Study interviewed representatives from more than 100 organizations that provide financial incentives to SNAP participants redeeming their benefits at farmers markets.  Wholesome Wave is a great example of a not-for-profit organization that partners with 305 farmers markets in 24 states with nutrition incentive programs for doubling SNAP, WIC, and Senior Farmers Market vouchers at farmers markets.

Expanding SNAP Farmers Market Access through Innovative Partnerships

America’s farmers’ markets are a great source of fresh fruits and vegetables and other healthy foods, and at USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), we’ve made it a priority to expand healthy food access through farmers’ markets to those participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). It’s a win-win situation because, for farmers markets, the ability to accept SNAP benefits is a great way to build their customer base, which helps generate more sales and nourish the economy in our rural communities.

As Administrator of USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, I place a high value on partnerships because, working together, we can achieve more toward shared goals than by working alone. The USDA recently contracted with the National Association of Farmers Market Nutrition Programs (NAFMNP), in an effort to enhance the participation of farmers and farmers markets in SNAP.  And out of that innovative partnership, I am excited to announce MarketLink, a new way for farmers’ markets and direct-marketing farmers to get authorized as SNAP vendors and get the equipment they need to accept SNAP benefits.

USDA Economic Data: Building Blocks for Policy

About midway through USDA’s 150-year history, federal officials decided that economic research and analysis could be a valuable, objective tool in helping farmers – and policymakers - grapple with farm price and income issues. In 1922, the Bureau of Agricultural Economics (BAE) – predecessor agency of USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) – came into existence. The Bureau began regularly producing agricultural market outlook reports (still an ERS staple), and - not surprisingly - its early work included analysis of agricultural policy impacts during the Great Depression.

Although the BAE’s functions were dispersed throughout the Department in the 1950s, they were assembled again into a single agency, the Economic Research Service, in 1961.  I’ll touch on just a few highlights of ERS activities that illustrate the value of our agency’s work over the past century.