Baylor Collaborative Celebrates 2023 Legislative Victories for Texas
by Craig Nash
People who experience food insecurity often do so because of structural barriers placed between them and the resources they need to live healthy lives. Removing those barriers can include a wide array of interventions, from opening a grocery store in a food desert, extending operating hours for a food pantry, or utilizing innovative alternative models for serving school meals to children. Sometimes, though, the intervention needed to increase access to healthy food comes in the form of policy change.
The team at the Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty joins its partners with the Texas Food Policy Roundtable in celebrating major victories for strengthening food security from this year’s Texas Legislative Session.
We are especially grateful for two pieces of legislation that make it easier for Texans at risk of food insecurity to access the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Through research and our work in communities, we know SNAP is the most effective tool for reducing hunger rates in the U.S., but often strict eligibility criteria prohibit those who need it most from participating in the program.
To determine eligibility for SNAP, Texas utilizes a “Vehicle Asset Test,” which caps the value of the vehicles a household can own to qualify for SNAP benefits. These values remained static for many years, making it difficult for Texans who need reliable transportation for work to access SNAP, even if their wages are too low and expenses too high to afford food. During this year’s session, the “Updating the SNAP Vehicle Asset Test” (HB1287) updated the vehicle values to better reflect the current cost of automobiles. This bill was authored by Rep. Ryan Guillen and sponsored by Sen. Cesar Blanco.
The Texas Legislature also passed HB 1743, making it easier for formerly incarcerated individuals to access SNAP by allowing them to apply for the program before their release from prisons. During the first 30 days after release, food security is critical as individuals begin the process of finding employment and reentering their communities. This bill was authored by Rep. Jeff Leach and sponsored by Sen. Royce West.
The policy team at the Baylor Collaborative works closely with lawmakers and other partners to identify regulatory obstacles to healthy food systems. If you have any questions about our work in this area, please contact Tasha_Roberts@baylor.edu.