One in seven people, including one in six children, are at risk of hunger in northwest Missouri and northeast Kansas.
The House of Representatives is expected to vote this week on a new Farm Bill which puts our most vulnerable at risk and would have a devastating effect on families, seniors and veterans.
There are already work requirements in place for people to receive food assistance from SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. This new proposal would expand those work requirements to affect more parents and more people in their 50s.
Punishing people for being unemployed by taking away their food assistance won’t help them find a better job or find work faster. It will only destabilize families and make it harder for them to get back on their feet.
When food assistance is taken away from parents who don’t meet work requirements, there isn’t enough money to buy food for the whole household, including children. This hurts kids right away, and research shows that it can have negative long-term health and education effects too.
The bill includes too little money for effective job training and leaves states with much of the burden to fund the training and job tracking necessary for stronger work requirements. This is funding that most states, including Missouri and Kansas, likely can’t afford.
In rural areas, jobs and work-support services are less available than in larger cities. These places also lack the infrastructure in place to support such programs. Additionally, community-based charitable organizations like Harvesters and our network of pantries and kitchens lack the additional resources necessary to feed the thousands who would likely lose SNAP benefits under this proposal.
A new Farm Bill is needed this year for the security and stability of our farmers and families. And while improvements could be made to the existing bill, we simply can’t support one that would make indiscriminate cuts against those who need it most: children, seniors and veterans.
I encourage you to call your congressional representatives and voice your concern about these cuts. Visit www.harvesters.org to find out how and to learn more.
Valerie Nicholson-Watson is president and CEO of Harvesters - The Community Food Network.