Phil Brasher at the Des Moines Register is reporting that USDA chief Tom Vilsack has named Kevin Concannon the new Undersecretary of the Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, i.e. the head of the federal food and nutrition programs — which include food stamps and the national school lunch program. Concannon ran Iowa’s Department of Health and Human Services — responsibile for administering the state’s Medicaid and nutrition programs — from 2003-2008.
The USDA post is typically held by a former state health department administrator — the main question will be what, if any, reformist credentials Concannon has. According to Brasher, Concannon worked to expand access to food stamps among low-income Iowans, but there’s no indication of any greater attempts at reform.
It would have been nice to see someone from a large, urbanized state, rather than another Farm Belter (Concannon’s immediate predecessor, Nancy Montanez Johner, was from Nebraska) get the nod. That said, Eric Bost, Texas’ former HHS chief, also served in this role under the previous administration, so large state experience doesn’t guarantee anything. Even so, when combined with Vilsack’s recent appointment of Dr. Janey Thornton as Concannon’s deputy, it doesn’t suggest that a wholesale remaking of federal nutrition programs is nigh. We’ll try to dig up some more info on Concannon as it comes out.