Opening Statement: Nutrition Subcommittee Chairwoman Walorski: Hearing on the Past, Present, and Future of SNAP: Developing and Using Evidence-Based Solutions

Jul 15, 2015

Remarks as prepared for delivery:

Welcome to today’s hearing on developing and using evidence-based solutions in SNAP. We will explore what kind of research is needed to develop more evidence-based solutions, what can be done to improve the quality and quantity of data, and how research can be used to improve the program. This is the seventh in our Past, Present, and Future of SNAP series, and will build on themes presented throughout the series and provisions included in the 2014 Farm Bill.

As we continue these discussions, I want to reiterate this process is not just about the bureaucracy behind SNAP, it’s about helping people.  We’re here to ensure people get a job, support their family, and ultimately become financially independent.

We have repeatedly heard calls for more flexibility so that both governmental and non-governmental organizations can better serve recipients. As we work to make that possibility a reality, we must be mindful of our duty to be good stewards of hard-earned taxpayer dollars. Giving more flexibility must be accompanied by measures that provide for robust accountability, oversight, and feedback. This will ultimately protect recipients and ensure taxpayer dollars are well-spent.

Unfortunately, most of the research currently funded by the Department of Agriculture revolves around the process, like application timing and accuracy, and recipient characteristics, such as gender, age, and family composition. This approach misses the forest through the trees. Instead, the Department must move beyond the basics of measuring the ‘number served’ and develop new data points that focus on outcomes like well-being, changes in earnings, and family stability. This shifts the conversation from ‘serving the most’ to ‘being the best’ leads to better outcomes for more people because we’re better able to judge what works and what doesn’t.

Measuring outcomes is not a new concept. In fact, in our third hearing on the Role of the Charitable Sector, Jonathan Webb, with Feed the Children, suggested developing a set of outcome measures, similar to those used in international food aid programs.

The 2014 Farm Bill planted the seeds of an outcome-based approach. The much discussed SNAP work pilots allow ten states to test various approaches to serving recipients. In exchange for a share of federal funds, they must agree to comprehensive, external evaluation aimed at measuring increases in employment and overall household incomes. The pilots’ emphasis on outcomes, was a great, bipartisan step forward to promote innovation and flexibility, and strong accountability.

I look forward to monitoring the progress of these pilots, as they will help to provide a window into what works and what doesn’t so that limited taxpayer dollars can be used efficiently as possible in providing a safety net to those in need and means to climbing the economic ladder.

Thank you to all our witnesses for being hearing today and I am anticipating an engaging discussion.