Anti-hunger groups denounce SNAP proposal, grocers concerned |

Anti-hunger groups denounce SNAP proposal, grocers concerned

Jim Weill
The Hagstrom Report

A range of anti-hunger groups denounced the nutrition title of the farm bill that was released Thursday.

Food Research & Action Center President Jim Weill said the draft bill “seeks to erode the effectiveness of SNAP in ensuring that those who struggle against hunger can afford to put food on the table.”

“The proposals in this bill would lead to greater hunger and poverty among all types of beneficiary families, including the working poor, as well as reduced economic growth and productivity in communities across the country.”

Weill said that large numbers of working families with children would no longer receive SNAP and there would be a much harsher “cliff effect” in the program, and, in turn, children would be denied access to other essential anti-hunger programs, such as school breakfast and lunch, putting their health and learning at risk.

Weill said the bill:

» “Slashes the amount of benefits for SNAP households struggling to pay for both utilities and food — to ‘heat and eat.’”

» “Seeks to expand dramatically the number of people subject to harsh SNAP eligibility cutoffs by adding unemployed and underemployed parents with older children and adults up to age 60. Currently, time limits apply to able-bodied adults age 18-50 without dependents, many of whom are between jobs or do not have steady enough work to meet the 20-hour per week minimum, often for reasons outside of their control. Others face significant barriers to work, such as lack of job opportunities and lack of transportation to get to the few available jobs.”

Weill said, “No amount of reinvestment in an employment and training bureaucracy or other services can make up for this assault on the (already limited) food budgets of hungry people.

“These changes to SNAP would affect people in all areas of the country, but low-income people in rural areas would be hardest hit. On average, from 2012-2016, 15.8 percent of households in rural counties and 15.3 percent of households in small town counties nationwide participated in SNAP, compared to 12.6 percent of households in metro areas across the country.

“FRAC will continue working with our national, state, and local partners to urge members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to reject the draconian cuts to SNAP in the draft bill that threaten to needlessly kick millions of people off of an effective, proven program — one that helps struggling individuals and families put food on the table and keeps or lifts millions of people out of poverty each year.”

Douglas Greenaway, president and CEO of the National WIC Association said “The National WIC Association is dismayed that Chairman Conaway and House Republicans are moving forward with a partisan farm bill that slanders and patronizes struggling Americans and now delays much-needed relief for America’s farmers and agriculture sector.”

“Conaway noted that, while the Special Supplemental Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) is not authorized under the farm bill, ‘WIC participants often rely on SNAP to have sufficient resources to have a full complement of groceries and to make ends meet.’

“It is imperative that legislators evaluate the farm bill’s nutrition title by upholding SNAP’s core purpose: to provide assistance to those in this country who cannot afford to feed their families.

“SNAP already includes work requirements that many states find onerous, especially in times of economic downturn or stagnation. Work requirements are inflexible mandates that create barriers to participation and deny people access to the very services that can give them a shot at the American dream. We will never adequately address hunger in this country if Congress remains unwilling to help those who cannot afford to purchase food in a time of need.

“Despite protestations to the contrary, this farm bill would cut funding for families to purchase food through SNAP. Instead of feeding the hungry, that funding would promote employment and training programs. Job training programs cannot feed a struggling family, nor can they provide economic security when this country does not create and sustain enough jobs with healthy wages for the working class.

“This farm bill’s redistribution of federal resources will not improve the job prospects and wages of low-income Americans and instead leave more Americans questioning how to put food on the table.

“This bill also throws up new barriers to sign up for SNAP, especially for children, older Americans, and individuals with disabilities. The bill’s efforts to narrow categorical eligibility — a policy that simplifies the SNAP application process for certain groups — is a callous attempt to reduce SNAP participation by targeting some of the nation’s most vulnerable populations. After repeated attempts to zero-out Meals on Wheels, it should not be surprising that House Republicans again seek to withhold food and resources from those most in need.

“This bill includes a number of other problematic provisions — including cuts to nutrition education programs and excessive restrictions on the reissuance of lost or misplaced SNAP cards.

“This farm bill’s misguided and partisan priorities are not serious solutions to combatting hunger in America. We have faith that Sen. Roberts will do a better job in delivering a bipartisan farm bill in the Senate Agriculture Committee.”

Ricardo Salvador, director of the Food and Environment Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, called the work requirements “draconian.”

“No person should have to go hungry in 2018,” said Salvador. “Yet low wages, stagnant economies-especially in rural communities — and a lack of healthy and affordable food options in many neighborhoods — have left millions struggling to put food on the table. This is especially and ironically true for many workers who produce, process, and prepare our food. Until we address the root causes of poverty and exploitation, we must provide a meaningful safety net.

“Even beyond SNAP, there are few bright spots in today’s bill. While the bill maintains funding for key agricultural research programs, it largely fails to take on provisions of the Local FARMS Act, a bipartisan proposal meant to chip away at the 15.6 million U.S. households that lack adequate access to healthy food while helping small and midsize farmers secure a steady demand for the food they produce.

“The bill also cuts funding for programs that help farmers protect their soil and water and better prepare for floods and droughts also take cuts in the bill, with the very popular Conservation Stewardship Program eliminated.”

Lucy Sullivan, executive director of 1,000 Days, an organization that works in the United States and globally to improve nutrition for women and children, said “Access to nutritious food during pregnancy and in the earliest years of a child’s life has lifelong impacts on their health and development.

“For very young children, whose brains and bodies depend on good nutrition, food plays an especially important role in helping children grow, learn and thrive — and reach their full potential.

“For these reasons, 1,000 Days opposes any changes that make it more difficult for pregnant women, moms, children and their families to get to the nutritious foods they need. This includes changes to SNAP, which is proven to improve the health and economic security of children, their families and their communities.”

Walmart, grocers cautious on SNAP proposals

Both Walmart, which gets a large portion of the business from SNAP, and the National Grocers Association, which represents the independent supermarket industry, issued cautious statements about the SNAP proposals.

“Walmart will work with Congress as they draft reforms to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in the next farm bill,” Walmart said in a statement to The Hagstrom Report.

“We have stores in thousands of communities across the country and know that SNAP provides an important safety net for families and individuals who need a little extra help or are struggling to find consistent work. Any reforms to the program should not impact those who need it most.

“We agree that it is better for people to have reliable employment and the economic security to support themselves and their families without public assistance, but there must be robust programs in place that truly enable families to improve their employment and income opportunities.”

National Grocers Association President and CEO Peter Larkin said “We encourage members of Congress to preserve the strong public-private partnership between retailers and the federal government that has made the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program a success by continuing to oppose new fees, reporting mandates or other costly administrative burdens on retailers.”

Larkin noted that NGA members were in Washington on their annual fly-in Wednesday and had made SNAP provisions in the farm bill one of their top priorities.