USDA to Improve Disaster SNAP Program Ahead of Hurricane Season
Washington, DC, May 9, 2019 – As part of Hurricane Preparedness Week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced improvements to the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP). In its continued commitment to serve Americans in times of need while enhancing public trust in the integrity of its operations, these changes will help clarify expectations for states seeking to operate the program and streamline assistance for disaster victims, while ensuring all eligible persons can access the help they need.
“When disaster strikes, USDA and our state partners must work quickly to ensure nutritious food is available to families affected by disasters,” said Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Acting Deputy Under Secretary Brandon Lipps. “We must ensure that states have the flexibility to ensure adequate food access in the aftermath of a disaster while being good stewards of taxpayer resources. That’s why USDA worked with state agencies that implement D-SNAP to proactively review our guidance to meet both objectives. The improvements we’ve developed together are especially timely as we head into hurricane season.” Lipps announced the changes during Hurricane Preparedness Week.
In recent years, disaster responses have grown in size, complexity, and in the resources needed to implement D-SNAP. At the same time, the marketplace has created opportunities to utilize new technology to improve integrity and efficiency. That’s why USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) convened a workgroup with representatives from California, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, Texas, and West Virginia—many with recent disaster response experience—to recommend improvements. Their recommendations include more effective applicant screening, the use of technology to streamline program operations, and better training, among others.
“States are at the forefront of innovation in our nutrition assistance programs,” said Lipps. “We appreciate the partnership of these states in finding ways to strengthen this vital program.”
In Fiscal Years 2017 and 2018, FNS served nearly 6 million households through D-SNAP. FNS will work to revise its D-SNAP guidance and assist its state partners in implementing these changes. The timing of D-SNAP implementation varies with the unique circumstances of each disaster, but always begins after commercial channels of food distribution are restored and families can purchase and prepare food at home. Before operating a D-SNAP, a state must ensure that proper public information, staffing, resources, and integrity measures are in place. To be eligible for D-SNAP, a household must live in an identified disaster area, have been affected by the disaster, and meet certain D-SNAP eligibility criteria.
USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) works to reduce food insecurity and promote nutritious diets among the American people. The agency administers 15 nutrition assistance programs that leverage American’s agricultural abundance to ensure children and low-income individuals and families have nutritious food to eat. FNS also works with the Department of Health and Human Services to develop the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which provide science-based nutrition recommendations and serve as the cornerstone of federal nutrition policy.
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