USDA changes guidelines for SNAP benefits for Texans following disaster

SNAP participants in Texas will be able to purchase hot food through September following Hurricane Harvey. Changes have also been made to the National School Lunch Program in Texas through the month. (File photo)

People in Texas who receive SNAP benefits will be getting some extra assistance this month, as the USDA's Food and Nutrition Services has made changes to those benefits in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

FNS said they are working with officials in the affected region to help feed displaced and affected residents. In doing this, the agency has granted several waivers in Texas allowing schools in the National School Lunch Program to provide free meals.

During this time, SNAP participants in Texas can purchase hot foods and hot ready-to-eat foods with their benefits. This will be in effect through Sept. 30.

The USDA is supporting the State of Texas in its plans to shift the full SNAP issuance schedule for September to the first of the month. This will ensure families will have access to their monthly benefits sooner.

The USDA has also taken the following steps:

  • Allowing all schools in declared disaster counties to waive the National School Lunch Program meal pattern and meal service time requirements. This will allow schools to serve meals that do not meet the menu planning or meal pattern requirements for schools and child care institutions and facilities in the affected areas through Sept. 30.
  • Allowing all disaster affected schools to provide meals to all students at no charge and be reimbursed at the free reimbursement rate through September 30.
  • Providing the state the flexibility needed to allow seniors who participate in the Commodity Supplemental Food Program in the service areas impacted by the hurricane to receive two food packages in September to make up for the loss of their August food benefit.
  • Approving Texas to designate schools not directly impacted by the Hurricane to serve as disaster organizations and shelters so that USDA foods can be used for congregate feeding, providing critical food assistance to those in need. USDA Foods include a variety of canned, fresh, frozen and dry products which include fruits, vegetables, meats, and whole grains.

“In this time of crisis, with many grocery stores closed and other sources of food unavailable, USDA is committed to ensuring that our fellow Americans get the vital nutrition they need and is streamlining procedures to make that happen,” said Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. “President Trump made it clear to his cabinet that helping people is the first priority, and that process and paperwork can wait until later. USDA is already doing the work to help people in need today.”

The FNS WIC program has policies in place to allow the State flexibility in program design and administration to support continuation of benefits to participants during this time.

FNS said a number of WIC clinics were damaged or closed during the hurricane. A conference call was held with the Texas WIC State agency to provide information and offer any other technical assistance needed to make sure WIC participants got help getting food.

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