Late last week, the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee released its version of the 2018 Farm Bill, which presents an opportunity for the Senate to strengthen the national commitment to reducing hunger and support agriculture.
Second Harvest Food Bank applauds Committee leaders for working together to develop a bipartisan Farm Bill and avoid dramatic cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)—a program that our food bank and network of partner programs has articulated the clear need for and accounted for the successes of. Unfortunately, however, the legislation – as currently drafted – falls far short of making necessary investments in food assistance programs to help those in our communities facing hunger.
Through our daily work, we see firsthand the struggles facing families, seniors, veterans, and children in Northwest North Carolina when they are food insecure. We know that our collective effort to reduce hunger relies upon strong federal nutrition programs such as SNAP. For every meal provided by Feeding America food banks such as Second Harvest, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides 12. We feel that the positive impact of SNAP on both families and our local economy is indisputable.
Thus, we applaud the fact that this proposed legislation recognizes the importance and effectiveness of the SNAP program and does not include provisions to limit access to the program or reduce its benefits, as previous bills have. Additionally, the bill proposes changes that would, in fact, improve SNAP program operations, including providing states the ability to view practically real-time data about whether SNAP applicants are receiving benefits in other states in order to prevent dual enrollment. This Senate bill stands in stark contrast to the House measure (H.R. 2), which would devastate Americans facing hunger and leave our food bank unable to fill the gap.
However, as proposed, the Senate bill fails to make all of the investments necessary to truly reduce hunger and food insecurity in our communities. In particular, the level of investments in TEFAP fall short of those provided in the 2014 farm bill and represent a missed opportunity to prioritize food assistance in the bill’s re-investments. We urge the Senate to prioritize increasing TEFAP funding as the legislation moves forward.
TEFAP provides food banks with fresh, nutritious food purchased from farmers and also helps transport and serve this food. In fact, almost one in five meals distributed by all local hunger relief agencies in 2016 was moved, stored and served because of TEFAP. TEFAP remains the cornerstone of the food supply for Second Harvest and Feeding America’s national network of food banks. Failing to adequately fund the program will inhibit our ability to meet the needs of those who are hungry in our community.
As the process for reauthorizing the Farm Bill continues, we encourage leaders in both chambers to recognize the importance of passing legislation that supports America’s agricultural producers and strengthens key nutrition programs for seniors, veterans, children, and working families.