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During her Feb. 16 testimony at a U.S. House of Representatives Agriculture Committee hearing on the operations of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Food Marketing Institute (FMI) President and CEO Leslie G. Sarasin noted that as the point of redemption for the program’s benefits, the grocery industry was particularly interested in ensuring that it operates as efficiently and effectively as possible. The hearing was held to ascertain the differences between a short-term hunger program such as SNAP and a longer-term nutrition program like the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program (WIC).
“FMI’s maxim when referring to its member companies is ‘Feeding Families and Enriching Lives,’ a responsibility we take very seriously," noted Sarasin, emphasizing that SNAP is vital for customers whose circumstances oblige them to rely on it for a time. According to the Arlington, Va.-based trade association, 82 percent of all SNAP benefits in fiscal 2015 went to households with a child, an elderly person or a person with disabilities.
Sarasin testified about the role of food retailers as active and engaged partners, as well as the social and economic costs related to what FMI deems complicated restrictions that don’t advance the program’s policy goals.
“FMI and the grocery industry stand ready to work with the committee and all interested parties to identify what works and doesn’t work in SNAP, and how to best reach those goals,” she said. “Unfortunately, arbitrarily restricting products eligible for SNAP purchase increases the costs and burden not only to the federal government, but also to their supermarket partners. At a time when we want to focus on creating jobs and developing a workforce, it doesn’t make sense to increase costs of an industry that competes on a 1 percent to 2 percent annual profit margin.”
SNAP has recently moved to expand its reach by enabling program participants to purchase groceries online through a USDA pilot slated to launch this summer at select retailers.