Tuesday, June 18, 2013

How could the Farm Bill affect SNAP?

The Farm Bill threatens to cut up to $20.5 billion from SNAP. (Photo By Charlie Westerman/Greater Chicago Food Depository)
By Doug Schenkelberg, Greater Chicago Food Depository Vice President of Advocacy and Outreach

Right now, Congress is debating the Farm Bill, a piece of legislation that is critical to how our nation addresses the needs of families facing hunger. The Farm Bill is a federal act that sets policy and funding for two different areas. The first is agriculture. The second is the food and nutrition safety net. These two areas have been paired together since the creation of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP – formerly known as food stamps) was created in the 1960’s. As of 2011, there were more than 913,000 SNAP users in Cook County.

The House of Representatives’ version of the Farm Bill contains a steep cut to SNAP - $20.5 billion over 10 years. Their version eliminates a provision of SNAP referred to as “Categorical Eligibility.” Broadly speaking, this provision reduces red tape and simplifies access to needed programs for households facing food insecurity. In total, the reductions proposed in the House Farm Bill would cut 2 million individuals from the program nationally. The Senate's version of the bill includes $4.5 billion in SNAP cuts over 10 years.

The House of Representatives will start debating its version of the Farm Bill this week. Over 200 potential amendments have been filed that would change the bill, including amendments that would either increase or decrease the cuts to SNAP.

The Greater Chicago Food Depository opposes the proposed cuts to SNAP. Food banks and our partners in the community do not have the resources to fill in the gap that would be created by a weakening of the federal food and nutrition safety net. There are 860,670 people in Cook County who are food insecure, meaning they don't know where their next meal will come from. We have seen a 77 percent increase in pantry visits since 2008 and have unfortunately seen no signs of that demand waning. Cuts to SNAP would only create greater hardship to families in need.

Your member of Congress needs to hear from you that they should not support a Farm Bill with cuts to SNAP. Please call today. Make your voice heard!

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