Texas Food Banks Call for Lawmakers to Update the SNAP Vehicle Asset Test

The Feeding Texas network, made up of 21 food banks across the state, is calling on state lawmakers to update the SNAP Vehicle Asset Test today in a virtual day of advocacy.

Eligibility for SNAP is primarily based on income and family size. Texas also chooses to use a Vehicle Asset Test, which places a limit on the value of the vehicles a family may own and still qualify for the program.

In the 26 counties served by the East Texas Food Bank, 500 East Texas households were denied SNAP in 2019, and that number grew to 2,399 East Texas households in 2022 due to the Vehicle Asset Test.

“This is a significant increase in denials in just a few years,” said Dennis Cullinane, CEO of the East Texas Food Bank. “More families are going without the food assistance they need because the Vehicle Asset Test has not kept up with the economy.”

“No family should lose their ability to put food on the table because of inflation in the car market,” said Celia Cole, CEO of Feeding Texas. “Used cars have significantly increased because of the supply chain issues. As a result, many families that were previously approved for SNAP had their benefits taken away.”

Senator Cesar Blanco (D-El Paso) and Representative Ryan Guillen (R-Rio Grande City) filed companion bills in the Senate (SB 273) and House (HB 1287) that would index the SNAP Vehicle Asset Test to inflation to better reflect today’s car values.

Current limits are $15,000 for the first vehicle and $4,650 for any additional vehicle that a family owns. These limits have not been updated since 2001 for the primary car and 1974 for additional cars.

Texans everywhere are feeling the impact of inflation,” Rep. Guillen said. “Because SNAP eligibility is linked to vehicle value, hungry Texans are losing benefits at a time when they need them most. These vehicle limits were set over 20 years ago—they are outdated and out of touch with reality.”

In Texas, 11,615 households were denied SNAP due to the Vehicle Asset Test in 2019. In 2022, the total number of rejections grew to 54,740.

Because SNAP is a federal program, Texas will incur no additional costs for updating the policy.

“Updating Texas’ SNAP Vehicle Asset Test is not a handout, it is a hand-up for thousands of Texas families facing food insecurity who should not be punished for having the vehicles they need to lift themselves out of poverty and welfare,” Sen. Blanco said. “It is a simple solution that would help thousands of hungry families at no cost to the state.”

Texas Food Banks Urge Legislators to Increase Funding for Surplus Ag Grant

The Feeding Texas network, made up of 21 food banks across the state, is calling on state lawmakers to increase funding for the Surplus Agricultural Products Grant today.

With the cost of groceries rising, many Texans are turning to food banks for support. The loss of the increased pandemic SNAP benefits (known as “emergency allotments”) in March will lead to even greater need, with all SNAP households experiencing a minimum reduction of $95 a month in SNAP benefits.

“Texans everywhere are struggling with the rising cost of food, and as a result, more Texans are seeking emergency food from food banks,” said Celia Cole, CEO of Feeding Texas. “More investment in the Surplus Ag Grant will help food banks meet the growing need in their communities.”

“The East Texas Food Bank (ETFB) continues to see a record number of our neighbors needing help and increasing the funding to the Surplus Ag Grant will be critical in providing enough resources to meet our goal of providing 32 million nutritious meals by 2025,” said Dennis Cullinane, ETFB CEO.  “During the pandemic in fiscal year 2020, we served 91,500 households and 25 million meals. In fiscal year 2022, we served 117,300 households and over 27 million meals.”

Since 2001, the Surplus Ag Grant has supported a cost-effective strategy to fight hunger in Texas. The program is a partnership between Feeding Texas and the Texas Department of Agriculture.

Food banks use funding from the program to obtain fresh produce that is unsellable due to imperfections or market conditions, and 100% of program funds go to farmers and transportation providers to offset the cost of harvesting, storage, packaging, and freight. Farmers are eligible for a tax deduction for their donation.

“In addition to feeding hungry Texans, the funds provided through the Surplus Ag Grant offset losses for Texas growers and mitigate the impact of food waste on the environment,” Cole said. “The program is a win-win-win for Texas.”

Texas economist Ray Perryman estimates that every $1 invested in the Surplus Ag program yields $3.27 in healthcare and education savings for Texas.

“Smart policy choices and investments like the Surplus Ag Grant can help prevent hunger for today, while boosting our state’s economic competitiveness and resilience over time,” Cole said.

HHSC Announces Federal Approval for Replacement SNAP Benefits Due to Winter Storm

AUSTIN – The Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) today announced it has received federal approval to allow Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients to apply for replacement benefits for food lost or destroyed due to recent severe winter weather by dialing 2-1-1.

“Prolonged localized power outages may have spoiled food for Texas families across our state during last week’s ice storm,” said Governor Greg Abbott. “I thank HHSC for ensuring Texans impacted by this winter weather are able to apply for replacement SNAP benefits so that they can keep fresh, healthy food on the table.”

“We hope that the replacement SNAP benefits will help Texas families who may have been impacted by the recent winter weather storm. These benefits will help Texans replace healthy and nutritious food that was lost due to power outages,” said Texas HHS Access and Eligibility Services Deputy Executive Commissioner Wayne Salter.

SNAP recipients who have had food lost or destroyed due to the winter storm last week need to apply for replacement food benefits for regular SNAP allotments and SNAP emergency allotments. SNAP recipients in the counties below have until Feb. 28, 2023, to request a benefit replacement:

Anderson, Austin, Bandera, Bastrop, Bell, Bexar, Blanco, Brazoria, Brooks, Burleson, Burnet, Caldwell, Cameron, Cherokee, Coke, Collin, Comal, Concho, Coryell, Dallas, Denton, Ellis, Erath, Falls, Fannin, Fort Bend, Franklin, Freestone, Gillespie, Harris, Hays, Henderson, Hidalgo, Hill, Hopkins, Hunt, Irion, Johnson, Kaufman, Kendall, Kerr, Kimble, Lamar, Lee, Leon, Limestone, Llano, Mason, McLennan, Milam, Montgomery, Navarro, Parker, Rains, Red River, Robertson, Rockwall, Smith, Sterling, Tarrant, Titus, Travis, Van Zandt, Waller, Wichita, Williamson, and Wood.

SNAP recipients not living in the listed counties above must request benefit replacement within 10 days of discovering their food was lost or destroyed due to the winter storm.

SNAP clients are encouraged to request their replacement food benefits by dialing 2-1-1 and selecting option 2. Recipients can also download Form H1855 on the HHSC website. Completed forms should be mailed to Texas Health and Human Services; P.O. Box 149027; Austin, TX; 78714-9027, or faxed to 1-877-447-2839. Replacement funds should be placed on Lone Star Cards within two business days of HHSC receiving the request.

SNAP is a federal program administered by HHSC that provides food assistance to approximately 1.6 million eligible, low-income families and individuals in Texas. More information is available at hhs.texas.gov. Texas residents can dial 2-1-1 to learn about programs and services.

East Texas Food Bank to hold special distribution of food to help Smith County residents impacted by winter storm

The East Texas Food Bank will distribute emergency food boxes and meat on Thursday, February 9th, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Green Acres Baptist Church, located at 1607 Troup Highway in Tyler.

Last week’s winter storm caused widespread power outages and damage, with Smith County being part of Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s disaster declaration.
“Many of our neighbors had to throw away all of their refrigerated food after being without power for days and with so many people struggling to make ends meet, we knew we wanted to help,” said Dennis Cullinane, CEO of the East Texas Food Bank. “We are also grateful for our partnership with Green Acres Baptist Church and allowing us to use their facility for our distributions.”

The boxes will contain shelf-stable food including cans of food and personal hygiene items. Meat will also be distributed.

This distribution is open to the public while supplies last. No ID or paperwork is required.

Please enter through the Troup Highway Side of GABC and do not arrive until after 8 a.m. as we will not have staff on site until then to set-up the distribution lines.

Volunteers are needed to help. Please visit our website, EastTexasFoodBank.org and click on Volunteers and mobile pantry and find this event to sign-up.

To find other distribution locations and food pantries throughout our 26-county service area, visit EastTexasFoodBank.org and click “Find Food”.

T.L.L. Temple Foundation awards more than $1 million to three Texas food banks

Lufkin, TX: The T.L.L. Temple Foundation (TLLTF) recently awarded grants totaling $1,069,788 to the East Texas Food Bank, Southeast Texas Food Bank and Trinity River Food Bank, to help people struggling with hunger. The East Texas Food Bank and Southeast Texas Food Bank received $255,312 each to help offset the higher costs of food due to inflation. Trinity River Food Bank received $559,164 to support operations of the food bank and their partner pantries, and to help with increased food costs.

“Our region has higher rates of food insecurity than the state and nation,” said Wynn Rosser, president and CEO of the T.L.L. Temple Foundation. “Alleviating food insecurity is one of the foundation’s highest priorities.”

The East Food Bank serves 11 counties within TLLTF’s 24-county service area: Bowie, Cass, Anderson, Cherokee, Rusk, Panola, Shelby, Houston, Nacogdoches, Angelina, and San Augustine.

“ETFB and the foundation have a history of working together to end hunger, and we are appreciative of their dedication to our service area,” said Dennis Cullinane, CEO of the East Texas Food Bank. “The costs of groceries is hurting so many of our neighbors and leaving many families with having to make decisions between paying utilities, rent and medicine or buying food. We are thankful for our partnership with the T.L.L. Temple Foundation and their goal of ensuring that hungry East Texans have access to healthy food.”

The Southeast Texas Food Bank serves 14,000 families a month in the foundation’s eight-county service areas of Hardin, Jasper, Jefferson, Newton, Orange, Polk, Sabine, and Tyler.

“More families are searching for nutritious foods that do not heavily burden an already challenging family budget and are turning to food pantries for support,” said Harvey Zernial, president and CEO of the Southeast Texas Food Bank. “This additional funding is allowing us to add variety to our offerings at no cost to the food pantries and the families. We are truly blessed with the partnership we have with the T.L.L. Temple Foundation and this support comes at a great time of need.”

“The T.L.L. Temple Foundation has provided Trinity River Food Bank with generous support to fight hunger in four rural East Texas counties over the next three years,” said Christine Shippey, president and CEO. “We are passionate about connecting East Texans with nutritious, affordable food to prevent the hunger epidemic from stunting bodies, minds, and dreams for the future. Foundation funding will help cover our core operating costs, expand the capacity of our partners, and extend our fleet of vehicles to serve remote parts of Liberty, San Jacinto, Trinity, and Walker counties.”

About T.L.L. Temple Foundation:  The T.L.L. Temple Foundation works alongside rural communities to build a thriving East Texas and to alleviate poverty, creating access and opportunities for all. Since its founding in 1962 by Mrs. Georgie Temple Munz, the T.L.L. Temple Foundation has invested more than $550 million primarily to strengthen communities in rural East Texas. For more information about the foundation, visit www.tlltemple.foundation.