Josh Sosland
At a time when per capita consumption of flour is hovering near a 30-year low, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 approved by the House Committee on Agriculture on a party-line vote represented a disappointing development. Creating dissent among legislators were provisions in the bill for expanded work requirements in connection with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The $70 billion SNAP program helped feed more than 40 million Americans in 2017. Opponents of the bill believe the more onerous work provisions will reduce utilization of the safety net program, perhaps by as many as 2 million people.

It is true that most SNAP recipients do not work, but principally because two thirds are children, elderly or disabled. According to the nonpartisan Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, the percentage of SNAP recipients who work has been rising steadily since 1990. Among SNAP households with children and headed by a non-elderly, non-disabled adult, the percentage of households with earnings has risen to about 60% from just under 30% in the early 1990s. “Because many workers turn to SNAP when they are between jobs, more than 80% work in the year before or after receiving SNAP,” the group said.

Grain-based foods leaders are grappling for ways to reverse negative consumption trends plaguing the industry in recent years. Maintaining appropriate accessibility to the SNAP program will be crucial if the hole the industry faces is not to deepen further.