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Why the farm bill matters

This week Congress is scheduled to vote on the Farm Bill, funding that at this point affects much more than farms. It’s a major source of funding for programs that keep poor people from going hungry. The most alarming funding cuts being proposed are for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, more commonly known as food stamps.

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I have vague memories of when my family was on food stamps. Back then food stamps were actual paper coupons, and I though they looked like Monopoly money. My parents had three small children, my dad was working hard as a piano teacher (he still teaches), and my mom was working hard to become a nurse (she still works as an OR nurse). And they wanted more than anything to get off of welfare and food stamps. Contrary to the stories conservatives spread about an epidemic of lazy poor people, families like mine use these federal programs as a way out of poverty, a stopgap on the way to something better. More than half of SNAP participants leave the program after ten months.

I understand the debate over funding these programs. I understand why it leaves a bad taste in some people’s mouths. But the bottom line is that without SNAP, children would go hungry – half of the program’s participants are children. The bill currently headed for a vote proposes a cut of 16 billion dollars to SNAP – that equals a whole lot of hungry kids. And Nancy Pelosi seems unwilling to stand up against the current form of the bill, stating that she thinks the wrinkles will be ironed out when the bill goes through the Senate. Ms. Pelosi, obviously you know more about this than I do, but that kind of unfounded optimism on such a divisive topic makes me very nervous.

SNAP isn’t the only program funded by the farm bill that keeps kids from going hungry. Every summer, kids who get two good meals at school nine months of the year risk going hungry. But thanks to the Summer Food Service Program, many kids all over the country can get meals in the summer months. Here in NYC there are hundreds of pick-up spots for these pre-packed meals. I’m waiting for confirmation from the USDA’s Food & Nutrition Service that their funding could be cut as well. For the sake of kids in my very neighborhood, I hope not.

UPDATE: I just heard back from the Food & Nutrition Service that their funding does not actually come from the farm bill. “The SFSP is authorized through the child reauthorization bill which is a separate piece of legislation under the jurisdiction of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, not House Ag Committee.” I apologize for the error, but at least that means that the SFSP isn’t on the chopping block this week.

Summer Food Service Program signs

The government manages to find money for the things it finds important. I refuse to believe that democrats in Congress don’t think keeping kids from going hungry is important. Don’t pass the buck to the Senate. Stand up against any form of the bill that cuts funding for food for kids.

Need more convincing? Check out these stories of kids who have been helped by SNAP.

Originally posted on Selfish Mom. All opinions expressed on this website come straight from Amy unless otherwise noted. This post has a Compensation Level of 0. Please visit Amy’s Full Disclosure page for more information.

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