July 20, 2018

Letter to the Editor: Families, Farmers & Food Banks at Risk

The House of Representatives is planning to vote again on a new Farm Bill, H.R. 2, that would add dramatically to the 41 million Americans currently living in households without consistent access to food.

H.R. 2 takes a dull axe to SNAP, the nation’s food stamp program, making massive unfunded and unproven changes that will put Georgia children, families, seniors and veterans in harm’s way.

Meantime, the Senate Agriculture Committee recently passed its own version of a Farm Bill that protects SNAP for people in need.  Senator David Perdue called it “a jobs bill” because he understands the vital role that the agriculture and nutrition sectors play in a healthy economy.

As a distributor of nearly 70 million pounds of food across metro Atlanta and northwest Georgia this past year, the Atlanta Community Food Bank works every day with families who deserve a Farm Bill that helps them put more nutritious food on the table, not less.

Laura, a disabled mother of children with medical needs, is one of the people we serve through a Covington food pantry. Her family moved to Atlanta from Michigan for a job that fell through. Soon after, Laura’s 40-year-old husband suffered a heart attack and became unable to work.

To feed her family Laura also enrolled in SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

“Without food stamps,” she told us, “I don’t think I would have my children, because I would have to let them go where they could be fed and cared for.” Thanks to SNAP, her family remained stable during a major health crisis.

SNAP is a program that works. It helps families like Laura’s withstand short-term setbacks by ensuring they don’t lose access to food while reacting to job losses, medical crises, or other financial disruptions.

Studies show SNAP benefits children, helping them achieve better health and succeed in school. It is an efficient program that helps the economy by generating $1.70 in local economic activity for every $1 spent. And SNAP is not a lifestyle, but works exactly as intended, as a short-term solution.

On average, SNAP participants receive benefits for less than 12 months – as soon as families get back to work and out of short term crisis, they exit the program. That’s why spending on SNAP has dropped by 15%, or $11.8 billion, in the last four years, as a recovering economy has helped millions of Americans get back to work.

So if the goal of the new Farm Bill proposed by the House is to cut SNAP spending; well, mission accomplished. And these declines will only continue as jobs and wages grow.

Yet despite this evidence, the House version of the Farm Bill takes an axe to SNAP, imposing impossible new work requirements on families with kids over the age of 6 and on seniors under age 60. Why do we need these limits, when very strict work requirements already exist for able-bodied working age (18 to 49) single adults? Can we really expect people who lose their job to find a new one within 30 days—and submit all the paperwork to prove it? Could you or I do that?

As a result, this bill will deny SNAP assistance to more than 300,000 seniors between the ages of 50 and 59, and to more than 700,000 parents with kids between 6 and 18. Denying food assistance to struggling parents and seniors actually makes it more difficult for people to pursue a job search, enter the workforce and start on the road to self-sufficiency.

The Senate Agriculture Committee that is expected to pass on the Senate floor soon with bipartisan support.  Meantime, the House of Representatives is still taking up a bill that requires states to provide training programs for SNAP beneficiaries facing new work requirements. The problem is that these state-managed training programs are not proven to work.

Georgia is actually one of 10 states already hosting a pilot program for SNAP education and training, and we should be able to learn from the results of these pilots before requiring states to create new programs.

None of us can end hunger alone. SNAP provides twelve times the amount of food that food banks deliver each year. Our community is stronger when we all work together to help families put nutritious food on the table. We want to see a strong Farm Bill that protects the hungry while at the same time supporting struggling farmers and rural communities.

As written, H.R. 2, the House Farm Bill, fails to advance these goals and when it comes to the floor of the House, we should urge our Representatives to vote no.

Kyle Waide

President & CEO

Atlanta Community Food Bank

Comments

  1. Charles Bennett says:

    I hope they cut food stamps out. They are so many that need them …..But more that abuse them. They should be sent M.R.E. s like what our military eats.

    • The Chemistry Teacher says:

      If you had hungry children, would your opinion change. None of us can imagine all circumstances under which people need assistance. I too believe that people should “pull up their bootstraps.” However, some don’t have the proverbial boots to pull up. Take a bus trip around Heard County and see how all your neighbors live. To borrow a phrase, “show a little love in your heart.”

    • I agree with you Charles, the more you give them, the less they will try to help themselves, if you feed the bears they will become dependent on it and will not forage on their own!

  2. Trinity says:

    Why not specify the word “them” so the ones you call “them” can defend this comment you made. Stop making your little sly comments because if anybody can read between lines you are talking about black people. No offense but your old are needs to drop to your knees and pray. God Bless you and those that speak and think the same as you.

  3. Trinity says:

    Glad the race card don’t work with you because it don’t work with me either, Thank you for your honesty Mr.WC.

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