Kevin W. Concannon

Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services
Department of Agriculture

Executive Schedule: Executive Level IV - Presidential Appointment with Senate Confirmation

Major Responsibilities:

  • Administers the Department of Agriculture's nutrition and food security programs
  • Promotes dietary guidelines through the Food Guide Pyramid
  • Oversees food assistance programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the National School Lunch Program

Key Competencies and Preferred Qualifications:

  • Social service background
  • Management experience

The Organization

Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services has principal responsibilities and funding authority for Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), which feeds 1 in 4 Americans, and has lead responsibilities for promoting healthful diet through the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion.

Working in partnership with State and local organizations, FNS oversees the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, which serves over 43 million Americans each month; child nutrition programs including National School Lunch, School Breakfast, and Summer Food Service Programs; The Child and Adult Care Food Program; the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); the Commodity Supplemental Food Program; Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations; The Emergency Food Assistance Program; and other nutrition programs.

The flagship program of FNS is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, and its responsibility is to “put food on the table for over 46 million Americans each month.”[1] Due in part to the recent hard economic times, SNAP has seen an large increase in funding by the US government, due directly to increases in enrollment: FY 2007 through FY 2011 saw a 59 percent increase in enrollment and a subsequent 125 percent rise in funding, culminating with a budget of over $75 billion in costs for FY 2011 alone.[2]

SNAP, according to a study by the Department of Agriculture, reduced the poverty rate by nearly 8 percent in 2009, and without that aid, millions of Americans would have remained below the “poverty threshold” of $22,000 for a family of four in 2009.[3]

The Challenge

Rising costs, as well as consumer fraud, have caused many in the United States to criticize the SNAP program, calling for action. In response to a Republican House plan to cut $33.7 billion in funding to SNAP over the next 10 years, Indiana Congressman (D) Gregorio Sablan said, “To cut SNAP now, while families in this country are still struggling, betrays a lack of understanding of how this program is designed to respond to economic conditions. It [SNAP] provides a safety net.”[4]

Another issue facing Concannon and FNS is the thought that eating healthy is expensive. One of the main goals for Concannon is promoting healthy eating habits for people across the country, a habit that some feel is too expensive to adopt. Some say, “I'm too busy. I don't live near a grocery store. I can't afford healthy food. I don't know how to cook. Why go shopping at your local grocery store when you can visit a fast-food establishment and purchase something off of the value menu?

Responding to the Challenge

Addressing the fraud problem within SNAP, Concannon reported that for the first quarter of FY 2012, 350 stores were permanently disqualified from the program for their actions of exchanging SNAP benefits for cash. In addition, 255 stores were sanctioned through fines or temporary disqualification. Concannon realizes, however, that fraud will continue to be a major challenge for SNAP and FNS: “Fraud is not a static concept—we know that where there is a will to commit malfeasance, bad actors will try to find a way.”[5]

In terms of the costs of eating healthy, eating nutritiously is actually cheaper according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. “The study shows that carrots, onions, pinto beans and mashed potatoes are all less expensive per portion than ice cream, sweet rolls, pork chops and ground beef. In fact, protein foods and food high in saturated fat, added sugars and sodium were all more expensive than fruits, vegetables, dairy and grains.”[6]


[1] "Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program." United States Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service. http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/
[2] “SNAP Annual Summary.” United States Depart of Agriculture. http://www.fns.usda.gov/pd/SNAPsummary.htm
[3] “Feeding the Poor.” Watertown Daily News: April 11, 2012. http://www.watertowndailytimes.com/article/20120411/OPINION01/704119944/1036
[4] “GOP Pushes $33.7B food stamp cut.” Saipan Tribune: April 23, 2012. http://www.saipantribune.com/newsstory.aspx?newsID=118295&cat=1
[5] “USDA Announces Latest Actions to Combat Fraud and Enhance SNAP Program Integrity.” US Department of Agriculture: February 29, 2012. http://www.fns.usda.gov/cga/PressReleases/2012/0042.htm
[6] “USDA: Healthy Food Isn’t Really more Expensive,” Clickon Detriot. May 17, 2012. http://www.clickondetroit.com/USDA-Healthy-food-isn't-really-more-expensive/-/1719524/13434626/-/65cwgpz/-/index.html

 

Profile: Kevin W. Concannon

Tenure: Mr. Concannon was Nominated by President Obama to serve as Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Sciences at the Department of Agriculture in April 2009, and confirmed by the US Senate in July 2009.

Federal government experience: Prior to becoming the Under Secretary, Concannon served as the Director of State Health and Human Services departments in Maine, Oregon, and Iowa.

Non-Profit Sector Experience: Prior to being confirmed as Under Secretary, Concannon served as President of the American Public Welfare Association, President of the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, Trustee of the American Public Human Services Association, and Co-Chair of the Milbank Memorial Fund state steering committee.

Education: Concannon attended Saint Francis Xavier University, Nova Scotia where he received both Bachelor of Arts and Master of Social Work degrees. He continued his studies at the University of Southern Maine and the University of Connecticut Graduate School of Social Work.

FNS's Mission and Vision

Mission

The mission of FNS is to reduce hunger and food insecurity in partnerships with cooperating organizations by providing children and needy people access to food, a healthful diet, and nutrition education in a manner that supports American agriculture.

Vision

The strategic vision of the Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services (FNS) is to lead America in ending hunger and improving nutrition and health.

Previous Position Holders

Nancy Montanez Johner (2006-2009) Former Director of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services with more than a decade's experience running programs for low-income children and families.

Eric Bost (2001-2006) Former chief executive and administrative officer of the Texas Department of Health and Human Services.

Shirley Robinson Watkins (1997-2001) Former USDA Deputy Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services, and Deputy Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs. Former Director of Nutrition Services for Memphis City schools.

FNS Reporting Relationships

Department of Agriculture Organization Chart

FNS Organization Chart

FNS Website

USDA.gov/FNS

This profile was adapted by Andrew Price and Jonathan Wigginton from: