LEO director Heather Reynolds to testify about SNAP before Senate Subcommittee on Food and Nutrition

Author: Tracy DeStazio

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Heather Reynolds, the Michael L. Smith Managing Director of the University of Notre Dame’s Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities (LEO), will testify before the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry: Subcommittee on Food and Nutrition, Specialty Crops, Organics and Research on Wednesday, April 19. The hearing, “SNAP and Other Nutrition Assistance in the Farm Bill,” begins at noon and will be livestreamed via webcast here.

This hearing, which will be chaired by U.S. Sens. John Fetterman and Mike Braun, will focus on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – a governmental program providing nutrition benefits to supplement the food budget of needy families so they can purchase healthy food and move toward self-sufficiency. 

This discussion is part of the five-year cycle Congress follows to pass legislation that sets national agriculture, nutrition, conservation and forestry policy, also known as the “farm bill.” The subcommittee oversees programs regarding food and nutrition assistance, school meals, non-program crops, organic production and research. 

Lawmakers currently have a chance to discuss food assistance programs like SNAP and consider their budgets. 

Reynolds’ testimony will emphasize the importance of building evidence around programs that support SNAP recipients so they can both feed their families and live a life outside of poverty. 

“As we think about the farm bill, we need to be less focused on just work requirements and more focused on evidence-based reform that will give people a way out of poverty,” Reynolds said. “Our solution must be to give them programs that work toward upward mobility.”

During her testimony, Reynolds will discuss the need for research-informed policy decisions by citing several LEO studies where innovative social service providers across the country have partnered with LEO to develop evidence-based programs that use intensive, holistic case management to intervene and help move Americans out of poverty permanently. 

Reynolds will give examples of programs in Texas, Indiana and New York that work with individuals and families using benefits programs like SNAP to stabilize housing and employment, increase earnings and get to a place where they and their families can thrive outside of benefits. 

Reynolds was invited by Braun, ranking member of the subcommittee, as an expert on poverty to speak from her experience in both the research and service provider spaces. Prior to joining LEO, for 14 years Reynolds was CEO of Catholic Charities Fort Worth, where she saw firsthand the disconnect that often exists between policy and on-the-ground work. 

“At LEO, we have more than 90 research projects to help us understand what works,” Reynolds said. “If we can understand the impact of these programs and services, then we can replicate them elsewhere and hopefully provide a new beginning for families who are ready to thrive on their own.”

Contact: Tracy DeStazio, assistant director of media relations, 574-631-9958 or tdestazi@nd.edu

Originally published by Tracy DeStazio at news.nd.edu on April 18, 2023.