Anti-Hunger Wins from the 2023 Texas Legislative Session
This year’s legislative session was Feeding Texas’ most successful since Texas food banks came together as a network over 20 years ago to engage state lawmakers in the fight against hunger. With the support of food banks, including the North Texas Food Bank, and anti-hunger champions across the state, the Texas Legislature passed several new laws that will prevent hunger for Texans experiencing food insecurity.
The network successfully advocated for three bills and increased funding for food distribution, all priorities identified by Texas food banks and other advocates ahead of the session. These priorities included:
1. Updating the SNAP Vehicle Asset Test (HB 1287):
Texas uses a Vehicle Asset Test to determine SNAP eligibility, placing limits on the value of the vehicles that a household may own and still qualify for the program. HB 1287 makes a one-time inflationary adjustment to the Vehicle Asset Test to better reflect today’s car values, increasing limits from $15,000 to $22,500 for the first car and from $4,650 to $8,700 for additional vehicles. We expect thousands more across the state to be eligible for SNAP. The bill was authored by Rep. Ryan Guillen and sponsored by Sen. César Blanco.
2. Implementing pre-release SNAP registration (HB 1743):
Early access to SNAP benefits ensures formerly incarcerated Texans have immediate resources for food so they can begin rebuilding their lives. HB 1743 supports people exiting the criminal justice system by allowing eligible individuals to apply for SNAP before their release so that they have access to food upon release. This supports the reentry process and reduces recidivism. The bill was authored by Rep. Jeff Leach and sponsored by Sen. Royce West.
3. Increasing funds for produce rescue:
The Surplus Agricultural Products Grant helps food banks rescue surplus or unsellable produce from Texas farmers for distribution to hungry Texans. 100% of program funds go to farmers and transportation providers to offset the cost of harvesting, storage, packaging, and freight. The network achieved a $10.2M increase in funding for the Surplus Agricultural Products Grant, doubling funds to $20.4M for the biennium and doubling the produce purchasing power of food banks across the state. This is a win-win-win for hungry Texans, farmers, and the environment.
4. Exempting state transportation-related taxes and fees for food banks (HB 3599):
State transportation-related fees are significant food bank expenses. HB 3599 will give food banks an exemption from fuel taxes and registrations for their fleets, meaning food banks can reinvest those costs into feeding their communities. The bill was authored by Rep. Shawn Thierry and sponsored by Sen. Chuy Hinojosa.
Gov. Greg Abbott signed HB 1287, HB 1743, and HB 3599 into law in June, and they should all go into effect Sept. 1, 2023.
These legislative victories represent the hard work of many different stakeholders and are responsive to the needs expressed by our communities and Texans with lived experience of hunger.
Throughout the session, food banks worked tirelessly to advance the network’s policy priorities. Government relations and advocacy staff at the food banks played a crucial role in gaining support from legislators and engaging community members in advocacy to support these bills.
The network held four virtual advocacy days and one in-person day of action at the Capitol to rally in support of these priorities. During the virtual advocacy days, food banks encouraged constituents to send letters to their lawmakers, gained media coverage to raise awareness of the network’s legislative agenda, and engaged lawmakers in the fight against hunger. At our in-person Food Bank Day at the Capitol, leaders from food banks across the network met with legislators in their service areas. A proclamation was also read in honor of Texas food banks by Rep. Jeff Leach, the author of HB 1287.
In addition to the food bank network, HB 1287 and HB 1743 were priorities for the Texas Food Policy Roundtable, a coalition of more than 60 organizations dedicated to ending hunger in Texas. Our bill authors, anti-hunger advocates, and organizations from across the state came together to help get these priorities across the finish line.
We were honored to have overwhelming bipartisan support for these anti-hunger policies, proving that regardless of political affiliation, Texans can all agree that food should not be an impossible choice. From small, rural communities to major metropolitan areas, these new laws will help feed Texas families and support food banks across the state.
While the fight for food security continues, we’re one step closer to a hunger-free Texas.
Texas communities informed these policies.
These legislative wins represent the hard work of many different stakeholders, but most importantly, they represent the needs of our communities.
To identify our network’s priorities for the 2023 legislative session, Feeding Texas met with community focus groups composed of Texans experiencing food insecurity from all corners of the state. We asked participants about the troubles they face and collected insights from their lived experience.
During a convening in spring 2022, the Texas Food Policy Roundtable brainstormed policy solutions to address the issues surfaced in these focus groups. Feeding Texas’ Board of Directors, representing the chief executives of the 21 food banks in our network, voted to approve these priorities for the 88th Texas legislative session.
Support Feeding Texas’s 2023 Farm Bill advocacy.
Now that the state legislative session is over, the Feeding Texas network is turning our attention to the Farm Bill. With your support, we can continue advocating for change at the federal level to support Texans facing hunger.
Beyond donations, here are some ways you can support our 2023 Farm Bill advocacy efforts:
- Follow Feeding Texas on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for updates and share our content.
- Send a letter to your Congress members advocating for our network’s Farm Bill priorities.
- Join the North Texas Food Bank mailing list to stay informed about the Farm Bill and other advocacy efforts to advance hunger relief in North Texas and across the state.
Ensuring food for a lifetime requires systemic change to address the root causes of hunger. Congress has the power to effect that change, and you have the power to persuade lawmakers to act. Solving hunger is possible when communities come together and demand better.
Learn more about the North Texas Food Bank’s advocacy efforts here.
Wesley Story is the Communications Director for Feeding Texas.