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Celebrating 30 years of ASNAP

Governor Lemanu P.S. Mauga on June 24, proclaimed that throughout July 2024 the territory will celebrate 30 Years of ASNAP in American Samoa.

“I urge everyone, especially ASNAP recipients, to celebrate this significant milestone.

“We recount and reflect on the impacts that ASNAP has made on American Samoa's economy and ASNAP recipients and their families by supplementing their grocery budget so they can access the nutritious food that is essential for better health outcomes and overall well-being.”


On June 12, 1991, Congressman Faleomavaega Eni Hunkin approved a proposal from his Washington, DC Special Assistant, (Muavaefa'atasi) John E. Suisala, to pursue the extension to American Samoa of the Food Stamp Program and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, Children (WIC) and negotiate with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to tailor the Food Stamp Program to benefit only our low-income elderly, blind, and disabled individuals as well as other modifications appropriate for American Samoa. Although significant progress was made, local opposition to extending federal welfare programs to the Territory prevented any further progress.

On January 21, 1993, after his election to a second term, Governor A. P. Lutali met with Congressman Faleomavaega to inform him of his intention to pursue the same two programs that Congressman Faleomavaega wanted to introduce to American Samoa. They agreed to work together to extend to American Samoa a modified Food Stamp Program, and the WIC Program. Governor Lutali, who was in Washington, DC for the inauguration of President Bill Clinton, submitted a request that same day to USDA Secretary Mike Espy to extend a modified Food Stamp Program to American Samoa.

On his return from Washington, DC, Governor Lutali established a task force to provide all the information and technical assistance needed for this purpose and designated (Muavaefa'atasi) John E. Suisala to be American Samoa's chief negotiator with the federal government. The task force consisted of TAOA Director Fuiavailili Mata'u Taele, Governor's Chief Legal Counsel Tuinei Tauivi, OPAD Director Mina Thompson, Governor's Assistant for Administration Solagaliua Solaita, and Congressman Faleomavaega's District Office Special Assistant, Dr. Oreta Crichton.

Negotiations between ASG and the USDA successfully established the American Samoa Nutrition Assistance Program (ASNAP) - the only modified and simplified Food Stamp Program in the nation to benefit only low-income elderly, blind, and disabled individuals.

The first annual Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) and ASG was signed in May I994 by FNS Western Regional Administrator Sharon Levinson and Governor Lutali. The MOU established, governed, and funded the ASNAP in Fiscal Year 1994 for $5.3 million.

In June 1994, Governor Lutali appointed Muavaefa'atasi John E. Suisala ASNAP Director.

At the beginning of July 1994, Governor Lutali joined hundreds of senior citizens, individuals with disabilities, and government leaders for the official opening of the ASNAP. First Lady Susana Lutali issued the first ASNAP food stamp coupons to an elderly mother, a blind father, and a disabled young man. Governor Lutali described it as "a happy day for me and for those who came to witness its opening."

Elderly, blind, and disabled individuals numbering 3,600 were served by  the ASNAP when it first opened in 1994 at an annual cost of $5.3 million. Today, close to 5,000 elderly, blind, and disabled individuals are receiving monthly benefits of up to $177 at an annual cost of $11.7 million.

Muavaefa'atasi John E. Suisala is currently the director of the Department of Social Services, which manages not only ASNAP, but a host of other federally funded social services & programs such as the Women, Infants & Children, Child Care, Children & Family Services, to name a few.