Spanberger Helps Lead 102-Member, Bipartisan, Bicameral Effort for SNAP to Allow Hot Food Purchases

Dec 04, 2023

The Congresswoman is the Only Virginian on the U.S. House Agriculture Committee

The Spanberger-Backed “Hot Foods Act” Would Allow SNAP Beneficiaries to Buy Hot Foods & Prepared Hot Foods Using Benefits

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger helped lead more than 100 colleagues in a bipartisan, bicameral effort calling on U.S. House and U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee leadership to include legislation in the 2023 Farm Bill to allow Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients to purchase hot foods through the program.

In May 2023, Spanberger helped introduce the bipartisan Hot Foods Act, which would remove an outdated provision of the Food and Nutrition Act that limits SNAP purchases to foods designed for take-home preparation, or cold prepared foods. The bipartisan legislation would remove this provision and allow SNAP dollars to be used to purchase hot and prepared foods ready for immediate consumption — which American consumers are increasingly relying on to feed their families.

In a letter to the Chairs and Ranking Members of the U.S. House and U.S. Senate Agriculture Committees, Spanberger and her colleagues urged the inclusion of their bipartisan, bicameral Hot Foods Act in the 2023 Farm Bill. Additionally, the lawmakers underscored the support millions of Americans receive from SNAP and how their legislation would modernize the program to meet the present needs of families.

“Hundreds of thousands of Virginia households rely on SNAP to feed their families. But right now, an outdated provision prevents SNAP recipients from using their benefits to purchase hot foods — meaning working parents can’t purchase a hot sandwich or rotisserie chicken from the grocery store,” said Spanberger. “SNAP recipients deserve to grocery shop for their families without arbitrary restrictions preventing them from purchasing the foods that best meet their lifestyle or dietary needs. I’m proud to join my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in advocating for commonsense reforms to SNAP that will make sure Virginia families are able to purchase hot meals.”

Nearly 850,000 Virginians rely on the SNAP program to feed themselves and their families. On average, SNAP lifts 112,000 people above the poverty line in Virginia, including 46,000 children, each year. SNAP also continues to support a robust national economy — increasing GDP by $1.50 for each new dollar in SNAP benefits.

The Spanberger-backed Hot Foods Act is endorsed by many Virginia organizations focused on combatting food insecurity — including the Capital Area Food Bank, Fredericksburg Regional Food Bank, Federation of Virginia Food Banks, No Kid Hungry Virginia, and Virginia Hunger Solutions.

Click here to read the letter, and the full letter text is below.

Dear Chairman Thompson, Ranking Member Scott, Chairwoman Stabenow, and Ranking Member Boozman,

As you continue your work drafting the 2024 Farm Bill, we encourage you to include the bipartisan, bicameral Hot Foods Act of 2023, H.R. 3519/S. 2258, which would remove the prohibition on purchasing hot, ready to eat foods with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.

Since its enactment 60 years ago, SNAP has prohibited the purchase of hot foods. While this restriction may have made sense in the 1970s, when most families were cooking their meals at home, it is no longer an accurate reflection of American families’ dietary or lifestyle needs. Retailers are also evolving to match Americans’ consumer habits, and have expanded their offerings to include more hot and prepared foods.

The hot foods prohibition means that SNAP customers can purchase cold or frozen items, but if retailers prepare or heat the same food items, they become ineligible for purchase under the program. In practical terms, a parent can purchase a frozen rotisserie chicken and spend over an hour cooking it but cannot purchase a hot rotisserie chicken to eat immediately at home.

Today, there are almost 42 million Americans in the SNAP program, over 500,000 of whom live in Kentucky, 2.8 million live in New York, and 5.2 million live in California. Eighty percent of SNAP participants are children, seniors, or individuals with disabilities. Allowing the purchase of cold foods, but not their hot equivalents, disenfranchises vulnerable Americans who often rely on SNAP benefits for access to critical nutrition. Some individuals with disabilities can face greater mobility challenges in cooking meals from scratch and would greatly benefit from being able to purchase a hot meal with their SNAP benefits.

During natural disasters, USDA’s Food & Nutrition Service grants waivers to affected counties so that SNAP participants can use their benefits to purchase hot foods when they are unable to prepare food at home. Most recently, USDA granted such waivers to all five counties in Hawaii following the Maui wildfires in August and to 23 counties in Florida following Hurricane Idalia that hit the state with 125 mph winds at the end of August. Such waivers demonstrate that the restriction on hot foods is an unnecessary red tape for business owners, program administrators, and American families.

The Hot Foods Act has bipartisan support in Congress. Now is our opportunity to provide families the flexibility their lives demand and modernize the SNAP Program with a simple fix. Thank you for your attention to this important matter, and please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions.


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