Anti-Hunger Advocates Say Farm Bill Delays Create Anxiety
Carol McCarthy | Sep 21, 2018 AT 10:59 am
ST. PAUL, Minn. - Advocates for Minnesota families who face food insecurity are eager to know what the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program will look like when Congress passes a 2018 Farm Bill.
Formerly known as Food Stamps, SNAP helps puts food on the table for one in eight Minnesotans. A Farm Bill Conference Committee is meeting to work out major differences between the House and Senate versions.
Colleen Moriarty, executive director of Hunger Solutions Minnesota, says the House proposal to add work requirements for SNAP eligibility is a grave concern when basic-needs funding in America has already been severely reduced.
"Everyone is in favor of work," says Moriarty. "No one's going to come forward and say, 'I'm against work.' But the fact of the matter is, for 60 percent of the program, you're talking about the elderly, children or the disabled. And many people who are on SNAP do work."
Food banks estimate the House version of the Farm Bill would mean SNAP would provide nine billion fewer meals over 10 years. House Republicans and President Donald Trump are both in favor of tough work rules. The current Farm Bill expires September 30th.
Statewide, Minnesota has hundreds of organizations and thousands of volunteers helping to provide food assistance to families in need. But Moriarty says local groups can't do it by themselves.
"And I just think that we need to recommit ourselves to the fact that when people need us, we will be there," says Moriarty. "Charity in no way could replace this kind of government support - that is an unrealistic view."
It's estimated that for every meal served by a local anti-hunger organization, SNAP benefits provide 12.
Moriarty hopes Congress acts quickly to reassure the 40 million low-income Americans who rely on the program.
"It's 600,000 people in the state of Minnesota," says Moriarty. "And this is a way for people to be able to sustain themselves while they look for work, or sustain themselves while they thread two or three jobs together that really don't provide a living wage."
Work on the new Farm Bill started more than two years ago, but the agricultural landscape has changed dramatically since then to include tariffs and trade wars along with declining farm income.