(Washington, D.C., December 19, 2019) – Deputy Under Secretary Brandon Lipps today highlighted the agency’s many accomplishments over the past year to leverage our nation’s agricultural abundance to ensure every American has access to wholesome, nutritious food, even when they face challenging circumstances. FNCS continued its focus on customer service and integrity, with an eye toward helping more Americans move toward self-sufficiency. FNCS also paved the way for some of the largest policy changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in recent history to promote employment, as well as made progress on the upcoming edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Improvements
FNCS published three proposed rules and a final rule to reform SNAP, reflecting this Administration’s commitment to improving the integrity and equity of SNAP, and expecting more able-bodied adult recipients to chart a path to long-term success and self-sufficiency. With the lowest unemployment rate in more than 50 years, now is the time for every work-capable American to find employment.
Farm to School
FNCS continued promoting Farm to School efforts in order to help kids learn more about the food they eat and how the hard work from our nation’s farmers helps feed all of us. This year marked an all-time high for funding and projects in the program, with Farm to School Grants awarded to support 126 projects across 42 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. These projects are expected to serve more than 3.2 million students in over 5,400 schools.
SNAP Online Purchasing Pilot
For the first time, SNAP participants are able to select and pay for their groceries online. As technology advances, it is important for SNAP to advance too, so the same shopping options are available for both non-SNAP and SNAP recipients. In making the announcement, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue highlighted online purchasing’s potential, along with USDA’s commitment to program integrity by looking carefully at the pilot, which launched in April 2019. Lessons learned from this pilot are expected to inform future efforts to expand online purchasing in SNAP. For more information, please visit the SNAP Online Purchasing pilot webpage.
Start Simple App Launch
In a continuing effort to help Americans make healthy food choices, USDA announced a new campaign to help simplify the nutrition information that surrounds them each day. Start Simple with MyPlate was a new initiative to reduce confusion surrounding healthy eating and help people start with the basics. The Start Simple with MyPlate campaign provides ideas and tips from the five MyPlate food groups that Americans can easily incorporate into their busy lives to help improve their health and well-being over time.
Trade Mitigation and Assistance to Farmers
In upholding its promise to farmers who have been negatively impacted by unjustified retaliatory tariffs and provide nutritious food through various programs at FNS, USDA continued purchasing and delivering domestic agricultural products, including up to $1.2 billion of surplus commodities for distribution to nutrition assistance programs serving low-income individuals. As part of the Food Purchase Distribution Program (FPDP), USDA’s Agriculture Marketing Service purchased affected products in four phases; the first kicked off after October 1, 2019 with deliveries beginning in January 2020 and continuing throughout the year. These products were distributed to State agencies for use in The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR), and child nutrition programs such as the National School Lunch Program (NSLP).
Dietary Guidelines for Americans
FNCS, along with our partners at the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), continued making progress developing the next edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs). The Department announced the selection of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which has been hard at work in reviewing data in transparent fashion, which will inform the upcoming edition of this important document. The DGAs serve as the cornerstone of federal nutrition programs and policies, providing food-based recommendations that help prevent diet-related chronic diseases and promote overall health. According to the National Nutrition Monitoring and Related Research Act of 1990, the guidelines are mandated to reflect the preponderance of scientific evidence and are published jointly by USDA and HHS every five years.
School Meals Reform
To help give school food service professionals the tools they need to do their jobs well and provide world-class customer service, FNCS offered additional flexibilities for serving school meals through new guidance provided to schools. FNCS recognizes local school food authorities are in the best position to know what their schools need to feed children. That is why it is working to put these on-the-ground staff in the driver’s seat when it comes to decisions about their school meals programs.
FNCS continued focusing on customer service and improving service delivery in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) by investing in a cooperative agreement with Tufts University. The $8.5 million grant will help WIC State agencies to explore innovations in telehealth to augment delivery of nutrition education to pregnant women and caregivers of young children participating in WIC.
USDA continued to address community needs during and after natural disasters, working with state, local and nongovernmental organizations to provide emergency nutrition assistance – including food packages and infant formula – to households, shelters, and mass feeding sites serving people in need. For example, in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, FNCS responded to state requests for Disaster-SNAP, and during California’s unprecedented wildfires, the agency approved series of waivers to help streamline delivery of assistance for those affected, such as allowing schools to operate outside conventional meal patterns, among other special concessions to ease the hardships residents faced.
FNCS continued its steadfast efforts to preserve the integrity of SNAP by working to combat fraud. The department awarded nearly $5.1 million in SNAP Fraud Framework grants to fund innovative state projects designed to reduce recipient fraud and enhance integrity. Improving the integrity of SNAP is a top priority for this administration.
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