RELEASE: On Giving Tuesday, Gottheimer Introduces Bipartisan Legislation to Help Boost Access & Affordability of Healthy Foods with SNAP

Millions of Children, Seniors, and Families Rely on SNAP to Combat Hunger. Fighting Far-Right Extremists Attempting to Cut Anti-Hunger Nutrition Programs for Babies, Children, & Families in Need.

Nov 28, 2023
Press

Above: Gottheimer speaking at the Bergenfield Food Pantry.

BERGENFIELD, NJ — Today, November 28, 2023, on Giving Tuesday, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) joined food pantry workers, anti-hunger advocates, and local elected officials to announce new bipartisan legislation he is leading to boost access and affordability of nutritious foods. Gottheimer also highlighted his efforts to combat the efforts of far-right extremists in Congress to cut critical, lifesaving federal anti-hunger and nutrition programs.

Gottheimer is leading the bipartisan SNAP Nutrition Security Act of 2023 in the House of Representatives with Republican Representative Lori Chavez-DeRemer (OR-5). Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) are leading companion bipartisan legislation in the Senate. The legislation is endorsed by Hunger Free America. 

Families receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits have trouble accessing and affording nutritious foods. This leads to diabetes, obesity, heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers. The U.S. Department of Agriculture currently reports on food insecurity in U.S. households, but we don’t have any concrete data on the nutrition behind our families’ food, especially for those receiving SNAP benefits, and how SNAP is impacting access to nutritious foods. 

The Bipartisan, Bicameral SNAP Nutrition Security Act of 2023 will:

  • Add reporting on nutrition to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s existing and annual reporting. For the first time, there will be clear-cut data on how SNAP impacts nutrition, providing the tools to improve access and affordability of nutritious food for children, seniors, and families in need.
  • Require an anonymized SNAP sales report every four years to understand the affordability of foods and what types of products are typically purchased with SNAP resources.
  • Boost transparency for federal programs to ensure that we can help more struggling children and families access healthier foods. 
  • Help us get healthier foods to SNAP recipients, which includes millions of children and seniors.

Hunger and Nutrition Program Statistics:

  • In the U.S., more than 44 million people go hungry, including one in five children.
  • In New Jersey, more than 800,000 people face hunger — including nearly 200,000 children. One in ten Jersey kids are facing hunger. 
  • In recent years, reports found that one in nine people in Bergen County, New Jersey did not have appropriate access to nutritious food and that 30 percent were children.
  • In April 2023, 41.9 million people in 22.2 million households received SNAP benefits. That is 12.5% of the total U.S. population. On average, SNAP provides less than $3 per meal.
  • The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) served about 6.3 million participants each month last year, including about 39% of all infants across America and more than 34,000 infants in New Jersey.
  • The economic cost of nutrition-related chronic diseases has been estimated at $16 trillion between 2011 to 2020.
  • Students with higher grades and better mental health are more likely to eat breakfast every day, eat fruits and vegetables, drink milk, and avoid soda.

Attempts by Far-Right Extremists to Cut Federal Nutrition Assistance Programs:

  • Far-right extremists in Congress have refused to include any additional investments for WIC.
  • In their proposed Agriculture appropriation bill, far-right extremists in the House included massive cuts to SNAP and WIC — an extreme proposal that would turn away 600,000 eligible women and children from WIC and put approximately a million Americans at risk of losing critical SNAP benefits.
  • Far-right extremists have taken us to the brink of a government shutdown. A shut down will hurt Jersey’s seniors and veterans and freeze the federal school meals program that provides breakfast and lunch to millions of children who otherwise go hungry. It will end Meals on Wheels for seniors and will put vital nutrition assistance at risk for nearly seven million women and children who rely on WIC. SNAP benefits will also be at risk.

Gottheimer’s Work to Protect and Increase Investments in SNAP and WIC:

  • Gottheimer helped get signed into law legislation to increase funding for SNAP.
  • Gottheimer helped lead the charge on protecting and expanding the federal school meals program that millions of children rely on. Gottheimer is also helping lead legislation to allow any child who qualifies for reduced meals to receive them at no cost and to cut red tape to enroll in school meal programs.
  • Gottheimer is fighting to pass the Universal School Meals Program Act.

“Thankfully, in addition to our food pantries, we have federal anti-hunger and nutrition programs which are critical to keeping kids and families in need fed. I have two kids, and I can tell you with confidence that every parent wants their kids to eat the healthiest foods possible. We need to make sure we’re doing everything we can to promote and incentivize healthy eating. But first you need to have the data to help make that happen. This new bipartisan legislation will help us get healthier foods to SNAP recipients, which includes millions of children and seniors,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5). “It makes me sick that far-right extremists are ready to punish families in need. They see starving pregnant women, mothers, babies, and young children and choose to let them suffer. Imagine being a parent trying to make ends meet and having to tell your kid they won’t be getting a Christmas gift this year because they need to save for food?”

“This report proves that the extra federal food and cash aid, for which Rep. Gottheimer fought so hard and successfully, significantly decreased hunger, but after Congressional conservatives forced that extra aid to expire, hunger across New Jersey and America soared. This report should be a jarring wake up call for all elected officials and business leaders to take concrete actions to raise wages, expand free school meals, and otherwise strengthen the nutrition safety net to ensure that none in New Jersey goes hungry,” said Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America, a nationwide direct service and advocacy nonprofit organization. 

“This year Bergen County has seen a 22% increase in food insecurity, making programs like SNAP all the more vital for our residents,” said Bergen County Commissioner Tracy Silna Zur. “At the county level, we have worked with community partners to increase the amount of healthy food available at food pantries by hosting supplemental produce deliveries and investing in infrastructure to expand storage of fresh food. We are grateful to our federal partners Congressman Gottheimer and Senator Booker for spearheading legislation to improve nutrition security through SNAP and improve health outcomes for the next generation.”

Gottheimer was joined by Bergen County Commissioners Tracy Zur and Rafael Marte, Bergenfield Mayor Arvin Amatorio, Bergenfield Councilwoman Ora Kornbluth, Bergenfield Councilman Buddy Deauna, and CEO of Hunger Free America Joel Berg.

Watch today’s announcement here.

Gottheimer’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

Good morning and thank you for joining us here today at the Bergenfield Food Pantry. I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving. It’s hard to believe, but the holiday season is fully underway. Especially during this time of year, I know that so many of us are thinking about how we can lend a hand to those less fortunate, including our seniors and children. Many of those kids won’t get any Christmas presents this year. The least we can do is make sure that they have something to eat. 

Just last week, I joined the Bergen County NAACP in Teaneck and the Mount Olive Baptist Church in Hackensack to help collect donations and hand out hundreds of Thanksgiving turkeys to local families in need. That was one day, and we put a smile on so many faces. Thank you for what you do here every day at the pantry – not just on Giving Tuesday. I encourage everyone to take time out of their week and help out at their local food pantry.

It’s because of their selfless work that year-round, families in Jersey have food on their plates. 

Across the nation, more than 44 million people go hungry, including one in five children.

Right here in our state, more than 800,000 people face hunger — including nearly 200,000 children. That’s one in ten Jersey kids facing hunger. 

In recent years, reports found that one in nine people in Bergen County did not have appropriate access to nutritious food and that 30 percent were children. These numbers are heartbreaking. It’s hard to believe that’s happening right here, let alone in the greatest country in the world. 

So, the question is – what can we do about it?

Thankfully, in addition to our food pantries, we have federal programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, known as WIC.

In fact, the Bergenfield Food Pantry is a local WIC agency — helping families navigate the system and access nutrition information. 

The WIC program is targeted toward lower-income pregnant women, infants, and young children who are at nutritional risk. 

WIC served about 6.3 million participants each month last year, including about 39 percent of all infants across America.

On the other hand, SNAP is the largest food safety net program and provides grocery assistance to lower-income families to reduce poverty and food insecurity.

In April 2023, 41.9 million people in 22.2 million households received SNAP benefits. That’s 12 and a half percent of the total U.S. population.

Now, we know these programs are critical to keeping kids and families in need fed.

But we’re facing two major challenges.

First, families receiving SNAP benefits are having trouble accessing and affording nutritious foods. That means our kids aren’t getting the fruits, vegetables, and other nutrient-filled foods that they need to grow and succeed. This leads to diabetes, obesity, heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers. 

I have two kids, and I can tell you with confidence that every parent wants their kids to eat the healthiest foods possible.

The economic cost of nutrition-related chronic diseases has been estimated at $16 trillion between 2011 to 2020. Strengthening SNAP will help improve nutrition, reduce diet-related chronic diseases, support families’ health, and reduce healthcare costs. And in schools, students with higher grades and better mental health are more likely to eat breakfast every day, eat fruits and vegetables, drink milk, and avoid soda. 

But, on average, SNAP provides less than three dollars per meal. That can’t possibly be enough for families to have healthy meals on their plates every day. If you’ve been to the fruits, vegetables, and meats aisles in the grocery store lately, you know what I’m talking about.  

The U.S. Department of Agriculture currently reports on food insecurity in U.S. households, but we don’t have any concrete data on the nutrition behind our families’ food, especially for those receiving SNAP benefits. There is no recent data on what SNAP participants are buying and how SNAP is impacting access to nutritious foods. 

We need to make sure we’re doing everything we can to promote and incentivize healthy eating. But first you need to have the data to help make that happen. 

That’s why I’m incredibly proud to have recently introduced in the House the bipartisan SNAP Nutrition Security Act of 2023 with Republican Representative Chavez-DeRemer. My good friend, and a tireless fighter for Jersey, Senator Cory Booker, is leading this bipartisan legislation in the Senate with Republican Senator Marco Rubio.

I’m very proud that our legislation is endorsed by Hunger Free America. We’re so grateful that their CEO Joel Berg could join us today. 

The bipartisan, bicameral SNAP Nutrition Security Act will add reporting on nutrition to USDA’s existing and annual reporting. For the first time, we will have clear-cut data on how SNAP impacts nutrition, giving us the tools to improve access to nutritious food for children, seniors, and families in need. 

Our bipartisan legislation requires an anonymized SNAP sales report every four years to understand the affordability of foods and what types of products are typically purchased with SNAP resources.

Transparency for federal programs is key to ensuring that we can help more struggling children and families access healthier foods. 

The bottom line is that this new report will help us get healthier foods to SNAP recipients, which includes millions of children and seniors.

The second challenge is that ultra far-right extremists in Congress have time and time again have made it their mission to slash these critical, lifesaving programs in budget proposals.

Far-right extremists in Congress have refused to include any additional investments for WIC — a program that we know has had growing enrollment in recent years, given those depressing statistics I cited earlier. They see starving pregnant women, mothers, babies, and young children and choose to let them suffer. 

In their proposed Agriculture appropriation bill, these far-right extremists in the House included massive cuts to both SNAP and WIC. We’re talking about an extreme proposal turning away 600,000 eligible women and children from WIC and putting approximately a million Americans at risk of losing critical SNAP benefits. Yes, they wanted to cut food to pregnant women and to children. Could you be more heartless? Without food and support, we know that our children are far less likely to succeed in school and in the long run. 

Not to mention, it’s far-right extremists who have taken us to the brink of a government shutdown. If ultra-right extremists have their way, the federal government will shut down in January — hurting our seniors and veterans here in Jersey, and freezing the federal school meals program that provides breakfast and lunch to millions of children who otherwise go hungry. It will end Meals on Wheels for seniors and will put vital nutrition assistance at risk for nearly seven million women and children who rely on WIC — a program that serves nearly half the babies born in America, including more than 34,000 infants right here in Jersey. SNAP benefits will also be at risk.

It makes me sick that these far-right extremists are ready to punish families in need. Imagine being a parent trying to make ends meet and having to tell your kid they won’t be getting a Christmas gift this year because they need to save for food?

That’s why since coming to Congress, I’ve fought to protect and increase investments in SNAP and WIC. In fact, I helped get signed into law legislation to increase funding for SNAP. Again, we can’t get food — forget healthier food — to children on less than three dollars a meal. 

It’s up to all of us to stop far-right extremists from gutting these programs critical to combating hunger. There’s no better long-term investment in our economy and country than taking care of our children.

I’m also proud to have helped lead the charge on protecting and expanding the federal school meals program that millions of children rely on. I’m helping lead legislation to allow any child who qualifies for reduced meals to receive them at no cost and to cut red tape to enroll in school meal programs.

I believe we need to pass the Universal School Meals Program Act because our children are rockets ready to take off, but they won’t reach their dreams without fuel in the tank. 

We must do everything we can to combat hunger here in New Jersey and across our nation, not only on Giving Tuesday, but every day. Providing nutritious food to our children and families will only strengthen our future and our economy.

In the greatest country in the world, if we put the health of our families first, especially during this holiday season, I know that our best days will always be ahead of us.

Thank you. God bless you, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.

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