Senior Policy Analyst
The House could vote again this week on a partisan farm bill that, among its harmful nutrition provisions, would let states turn all SNAP (formerly food stamp) operations over to private corporations. States have long worked with private companies to run human services programs, and the Trump Administration has helpfully clarified the role that private companies can play. But fully corporatizing food assistance operations goes too far.
Indeed, doing so can be disastrous, experience shows, putting critical nutrition for low-income families at risk. Texas and Indiana gave key application and eligibility functions to private companies in the early 2000s, and neither the cost savings nor the efficiency improvements that proponents predicted materialized. Instead:
In Texas and Indiana, skewed incentives and insufficient trained staff compromised the timely and accurate provision of benefits to low-income households. Though federal SNAP rules require an eligibility determination within 30 days, thousands in Texas waited months for staff to process their applications, the Center on Public Policy Priorities and Feeding Texas recently noted. And many received misinformation and incorrect benefit allotments. Indiana had similar problems, with large application backlogs and clogged call center lines, and many eligible households saw their benefits improperly denied, terminated, or suspended.
SNAP is one of the nation’s most effective and efficient human services programs, largely because it’s grounded in a strong, balanced partnership between the public and private sectors. The House plan would disrupt this balance, placing undue risk on very vulnerable families. Congress needs to adopt a farm bill that enables states to maximize program efficiency while preserving SNAP’s ability to meet its core goal of ensuring that vulnerable Americans have enough to eat.