Texas Lawmakers Can Help Fight Hunger in the 88th Legislative Session
As state lawmakers begin filing legislation for the 88वां State Legislature, anti-hunger advocates are calling on our elected officials to push for policy solutions that address hunger and food insecurity.
Inflation is leading to a surge in the number of Texans seeking emergency food from food banks. Food banks and food pantries are responding as best they can to the increased demand for food, but fighting hunger requires a public-private partnership.
Anti-hunger policy is a critical piece in bridging the hunger gap in Texas. The North Texas Food Bank alongside of the Feeding Texas network has identified five key legislative priorities for the upcoming session. Together with a coalition of community anti-hunger advocates, they are calling on lawmakers to:
- Increase funding for produce rescue to help food banks provide nutritious food to their communities. The Surplus Agricultural Products Grant helps food banks rescue unsellable produce for distribution to Texans facing hunger, offsetting losses for Texas growers and mitigating the impact of food waste on the environment.
- Modernize the vehicle asset test to ensure better access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Specifically, the recommendation is to index the SNAP vehicle asset test to inflation to better reflect today’s car values. Current limits on vehicle value haven’t been updated since 2001 (primary car) and 1973 (additional cars), forcing families to make the impossible choice between a reliable vehicle and feeding their families.
- Improve college completion rates by maintaining access to SNAP for low-income students enrolled in vocational and technical degree programs at community colleges. SNAP access for college students was adopted during the pandemic to ensure students can access the food assistance they need to finish their degrees and go on to gainful employment. This pandemic-era change makes good business sense for Texas.
- Support people exiting the criminal justice system by enrolling them in SNAP through pre-release registration. By ensuring access to food, SNAP supports the re-entry process and reduces recidivism.
- Improve health outcomes and reduce state healthcare costs by piloting a Medicaid reimbursement program for medical nutrition programs, such as Medically Tailored Meals and Meal Packages and Food/produce Prescription Programs. These proven interventions demonstrate that healthy food is good medicine.
Community advocates and our public officials in North Texas are valued partners in advancing these legislative priorities. The North Texas Food Bank recently hosted a Legislative Breakfast featuring a panel with Texas House District 66 Representative Matt Shaheen, House District 109 Representative Carl O. Sherman, and Senator Nathan Johnson from Texas Senatorial District 16.
Moderated by NTFB Board member and the Director of Public Affairs for H-E-B/Central Market, Mabrie Jackson, Representative Shaheen, Representative Sherman and Senator Johnson discussed how ensuring access to nutrition is vital to all communities.
The audience learned more about the coalition’s state legislative priorities as well as the different ideas the lawmakers have on how to solve community issues. But all panelists and guests agreed that the charitable sector, advocates and policy-makers must work together to make long-term improvements.
We have the tools to solve food insecurity in Texas and lawmakers can sharpen those tools to work better for Texans. Finding common ground in today’s divided political climate may be challenging, but we can all agree that food should not be an impossible choice.
Thank you to the North Texas Food Bank for bringing awareness to anti-hunger policy advocacy work and to the public officials who advance the mission for a hunger-free Texas. If you would like to become involved in advocating for anti-hunger policies, you can find opportunities here: https://ntfb.org/advocacy/
Sandi Pruitt, PhD MPH
Dr. Pruitt is a public health scientist passionate about applying evidence and data to solve real-world problems and building community coalitions to improve food security and health equity for all Texans.