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“Lawmakers must look for other measures for balancing our federal budget than to do so on the backs of hungry and poor people who did not create the deficit in the first place.”
—Bread for the World President David Beckmann, in response to the House Agriculture Committee's farm bill, which cuts SNAP by $21 billion.
Photo: Alex Morris, from Bend, Ore., depends on SNAP, WIC and other programs to care for André, who suffers from a serious medical condition that affects his hormonal system. (Brad Horn)
House Committee on Agriculture Passes Farm Bill with a $21 Billion Cut to SNAP: How the Members Voted
Bread for the World expressed outrage over the severe cuts to anti-hunger programs in a joint statement with Feeding America, United Way, and Catholic Relief Services.
The bill, which now goes to House leadership to be scheduled for a floor vote, would create hardship for families in the Unites States and have deadly consequences for families abroad. If enacted, it would:
- Remove 2 million SNAP recipients from the program
- Reduce SNAP benefits (by about $90 each month) for 850,000 households
- End free school meals for 210,000 children.
- Cut international food aid by $2.5 billion over 5 years—those cuts would include a 78 percent reduction in funding for improving the nutritional quality of food aid
During a very heated debate on the nutrition portion of the bill—a debate that included comments about churches taking primary responsibility for the care of hungry and poor people—Rep. Jim McGovern introduced an amendment to restore all cuts to the SNAP program. By a roll call vote, the amendment failed 17-27.
Bread for the World will continue to fight these cuts as the bill goes to the floor of the House. Domestic nutrition programs such as SNAP are the first line of defense against hunger and have proven effective in decreasing food insecurity during a weakened economy.
Members of the House Committee on Agriculture who voted to pass a bill with a $21 billion cut to the SNAP program. If your representative is on this list, we encourage you to call your member’s office or tag him or her in a tweet and let them know you are disappointed.
Members of the House Committee on Agriculture who voted to protect the programs for poor and hungry people that provide a place at the table for all. If your representative is on this list, we encourage you to call your member’s office or tag him or her in a tweet and thank them. (Asterisk indicates the member voted against the farm bill, but also voted against McGovern’s amendment).
Yesterday, the Senate Agriculture Committee marked up the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013, commonly referred to as the farm bill. The draft of the bill amended by the committee will now be scheduled for a full Senate vote. We thank Bread for the World members who took the time to urge their senators on the agriculture committee to ensure a place at the table for hungry and poor people by opposing cuts to SNAP and international food aid.
The Senate version of the farm bill cuts SNAP (formerly food stamps) by $4.1 billion over five years, which would leave nearly 500,000 households without benefits. (In opening statements, Sens. Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Cowan (D-Mass.), Harkin (D-Iowa), and Brown (D-Ohio) spoke favorably of SNAP and nutrition programs).
Food aid fared better, with a proposed expansion of a program that creates flexibility in purchasing emergency food and includes provisions to improve the quality of food aid, particularly for mothers, children under five, and other target populations. International food aid provisions remain intact moving to floor debate and we will continue to ask senators to support those provisions.
The nutrition portion of the bill, under which SNAP is authorized, saw numerous amendments submitted for consideration, none of which made it through to the final version of the committee’s bill. Below is a summary of the amendments offered or mentioned in committee:
Today, the House Committee on Agriculture will consider a farm bill that would cut SNAP by more than $20 billion over ten years. While food pantries and churches do amazing work in feeding hungry people, their efforts cannot counteract that sort of blow to such a vital program. In 2011, federal nutrition programs delivered more than 23 times the amount of food assistance as did private charities.
Churches can't do it alone—the government must do its part.
Check out Bread for the World's fact sheet, "Churches and Hunger" to learn more about how SNAP cuts would tax churches, food banks, and private food charities beyond their limits. And if your representative sits on the House Committee on Agriculture, call 1-800-326-4941 today and tell him or her that cuts to SNAP are unacceptable.
The farm bill governs SNAP (formerly food stamps) and international food aid. Both are critical anti-hunger programs, and both are at risk of cuts deeper than those proposed in last year’s farm bill process. The House farm bill was just released over the weekend, and it cuts SNAP by more than $20 billion over ten years; it cuts international food aid by $2.5 billion over five years; and it cuts international food aid quality programs by 78 percent. If enacted, these cuts would have devastating consequences.
Time is short: the committee will consider its proposal on Wednesday. Call 1-800-326-4941 and tell your representative that
- Cuts to SNAP are unacceptable. The proposed cuts would kick as many as 3 million people from the program, reduce benefits for hundreds of thousands of households, and deprive 280,000 kids of school meals. I urge you to vote against any cuts to SNAP and support efforts to restore any cuts.
- I urge you to oppose cuts to food aid and support efforts to make the program more efficient while also targeting the nutritional needs of women and children in the thousand-day window from pregnancy to age 2. International food aid reached 66 million people hit by famine, disasters, and other emergencies. These cuts will cost lives and hinder our ability to effectively reach millions of people in need.
Cuts to these programs will mean no food on the table for millions of our brothers and sisters.
This week is critical as the Senate Agriculture Committee finalizes its farm bill. Call your representative today at 1-800-326-4941 or send an email now.
Thank you for using your voice to help ensure a place at the table for all God's people.
Photo: U.S. Capitol building by flickr user smaedli.
Photo: John, a former banker who is one of the subjects of The Line, shops for himself and his three children at a food pantry. (Film still from The Line, courtesy Magnolia Pictures)
By Alicia Vela
Recently, I worked with Bread for the World regional organizer Zach Schmidt and a few of my seminary classmates to organize a viewing of The Line--a documentary that takes a look at poverty in America. The event was part of a class called “Mobilizing for Justice,” taught by Dr. Soong-Chan Rah, professor at North Park Theological Seminary, and Dr. Dennis Edwards, senior pastor of Sanctuary Covenant Church in Minneapolis.
After watching the documentary, which follows four highly-relatable stories of Americans living in poverty, we participated in an exercise that shows how poverty cuts across all demographics. We then entered a period of small- and large-group discussion, reflecting on issues surrounding poverty in America and the ways in which the church can and should respond. The night ended with a plea for those present, as future pastors and leaders, to use our power—our pulpit, our congregation members, and our voices—to impact the issue of poverty in our communities and across the country.
During the event, we discussed different ways of responding to poverty, from helping local food pantries and soup kitchens to advocating for policy changes. We had an opportunity to sign Bread’s petition to President Obama, urging him to set a goal and work with Congress to end hunger. The conversation was productive in raising awareness as well allowing us to brainstorm more ways to be involved in addressing poverty. We also collected canned food for the North Park Friendship Center, an organization fighting hunger on Chicago’s North Side.
There are several pieces that I personally took away from my experience with Bread for the World, but the idea of using my voice for advocacy really stood out. I had always thought that as a pastor, I shouldn’t get involved in politics. Being an advocate seemed too divisive in my mind. I have always hidden my political affiliation while working in the church because I thought people would try to argue with me if they had different views. Then I realized that fighting for the hungry is not a political opinion or side, but rather a biblical mandate.
If we take seriously Jesus’s call to love the orphan, fight on behalf the defenseless and care for the weak, we begin to see advocacy as an essential response. As Christians we cannot stand alongside and watch those around us hurt because of the broken systems we have created. We are called to fight for them, to call or write our government leaders and ask for better laws and more care for those who are most vulnerable.
Vela earned her B.A. in psychology from the University of Colorado at
Boulder and recently completed her Master of Divinity coursework at North
Seminary. A Colorado native, she is currently interning at Deer Grove
Covenant Church in Palatine, Ill.
House Committee on Agriculture Chairman Frank Lucas released his first draft of the farm bill into committee on Friday. His draft would cut SNAP (formerly food stamps) by $20 billion over 10 years. In this weakened economy, need has increased and participation is high, because the safety net has responded as it should, but Rep. Lucas (R-Okla.) would change that with this bill.
Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), a member of the agriculture committee, said the bill “would make hunger worse and not better.” Last week the congressman gave his tenth End Hunger Now floor speech in advance of the chairman’s draft proposal.
Both the House and Senate will mark up the farm bill this week in their respective committees; the Senate on Tuesday, May 14, and the House on Wednesday, May 15. After the chair offers the first draft, committee members have the opportunity to propose and vote on any amendments, or changes, to the bill. Once a final version is voted out of committee, leadership then adds it to the schedule for a floor vote. Both House and Senate leadership have indicated they would like a farm bill on the summer agenda.
“We are supposed to help people, not hurt people,” said McGovern in his speech.” But if this farm bill goes forward with a $20 billion cut in SNAP, we will be hurting people— millions and millions of people in this country.”
Any cuts to SNAP would prove devastating for vulnerable Americans. SNAP participants are already facing a reduction in benefits—on Nov. 1, a temporary program boost that was included in the 2009 stimulus package will expire. Even more alarming: a recent Institute of Medicine study concluded that the way in which the benefit level is calculated for SNAP is inadequate for a healthy diet. Inadequate as existing levels are, just this expiration will reduce the average benefit to about $1.40 per person per meal, reports the Center of Budget and Policy Priorities. Cutting the program by $20 billion over 10 years would reduce the benefit even further and increase food insecurity even more.
“Outraged” was a term McGovern used repeatedly in his speech. He responded to those who believe cuts would reduce participation. “SNAP isn’t a get-rich scheme,” he said. “People use SNAP to put food on their tables during difficult times. McGovern noted that many people who currently qualify for SNAP do work, but said “[t]he way to reduce the number of people on SNAP is by creating jobs—by helping to get this economy going again.”
In the Senate, the agriculture committee chairwoman’s farm bill draft included a $4.1 billion cut to the SNAP program, which would also create hardship for millions of families. We continue to ask Bread for the World members to call their senators and tell them to ask for a final version with no cuts.
Today, Bread for the World will launch a targeted action alert to our members who have representatives on the committee. During this short window of opportunity, we must get in as many calls as possible to the 44 members who sit on the House agriculture committee. As their constituents, we can demand a final draft that protects programs for hungry people. From Rep. Schrader in Oregon to Rep. Collins in New York, committee members across this nation must hear that any farm bill must help to end hunger now.
Photo: Alex Morris feeds her son, André, in their Bend, Ore., home. Alex depends on SNAP, WIC and other programs to care for André, who suffers from a serious medical condition that affects his hormonal system. (Brad Horn)
Rev. James Forbes, shown in 2006, was the keynote speaker at a North Carolina Bread for the World conference last month. Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Scott Griessel, flickr user creatista.
By Paula Well and Rev. Bob Herron
On Saturday, April 13, a dream became a reality—a North Carolina Bread for the World Conference took place at the Christ United Methodist Church in Greensboro, N.C. Thanks to the efforts of the local Bread Leadership Team of the Triad we held a successful conference that brought attention to issues of hunger in our state, our county, and around the world.
The keynote of the day was given by Dr. James Forbes, pastor emeritus of Riverside Church, in New York City. His words inspired and challenged the more than 100 attendees. During the conference, Dr. Forbes also offered a “homiletics teaching,” a workshop for pastors on methods of preaching justice. LaMarco Cable, deputy director of organizing for Bread’s southern hub, gave a presentation on this year’s Offering of Letters and presidential petition.
During lunch, participants wrote letters to Congress and signed the presidential petition while listening to music from hunger advocate and musician Bryan McFarland. The rest of the time was spent networking with people from various parts of the state and sharing ideas about strengthening our advocacy. We were also very blessed to have a local cinema showing the brilliant documentary A Place at the Table the same time that the conference was taking place. We cannot recommend it highly enough.
We hope that other Bread Leadership Teams will be inspired by hearing about our North Carolina event. We pray that the brilliant preaching of Rev. Forbes and the leadership of LaMarco Cable will take us to new heights. We also pray that the exhilaration of learning how our small voices can be used to amplify important issues will not fade.
Recently, our team reconvened to discuss how we could capitalize on the energy of that day, and we became reinvigorated and ready to plan for our next conference. We feel the ways in which the Holy Spirit emboldens us to dream֫—to dream of a day when, instead of one in six Americans going to bed hungry at night, no one is hungry. We dream of a day when Bread for the World won’t be necessary any longer because the problem of hunger has been solved.
Until that dream is realized, we will continue our work.Paula Well and Rev. Bob Herron are team members of the Bread for the World Triad of N.C.
The American Jewish World Service, Bread for the World, CARE, The Modernizing Assistance Network, Oxfam America and Save the Children released the following statement today in advance of the Senate and House committee mark-ups of the 2013 Farm Bill:
“With more than 870 million people suffering from hunger worldwide and Congress looking to ensure wise use of taxpayer funds at home, the 2013 Farm Bill represents a crucial opportunity to make our international food aid programs both more efficient and more cost-effective.
Unfortunately, the current Senate draft Farm Bill, due to be marked up next week, includes the same incremental steps toward reform as last year, but fails to address the fundamental changes that are so badly needed. We urge Senate leaders to work with the Administration to achieve stronger reforms in food aid programs so that American tax dollars can go farther and American compassion can reach more people in need. On the House side, we remain disappointed that the House Agriculture Committee draft once again fails to incorporate any reforms.
In his 2014 budget request, President Obama proposed common sense reforms that would feed millions more people and save lives by delivering aid faster with no additional cost to the taxpayer. This proposal sets an important precedent in building a more modern food aid program. Proposed reforms include allowing for greater flexibility in how the U.S. delivers food to hungry people overseas and ending the inefficient method of having aid groups sell food aid overseas to fund development programs, a practice known as “monetization.” This increased flexibility is a part of a package that would allow food aid to go farther, feeding 2-4 million additional people. These reforms have been greeted with interest by members on both sides of the aisle.
While we are supporting the Administration’s request that the FY 14 Appropriations bills be the vehicle for food aid reform, we recognize that there are several potential paths forward for Congress to achieve these much needed improvements to our international food aid program, and we are fully committed to working with leaders in Congress, including members of the House Foreign Affairs and Senate Foreign Relations Committees, to get it done this year."Photo: Somali woman and a malnourished child exit from the medical tent after the child receives emergency medical treatment from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), an active regional peacekeeping mission operated by the African Union with the approval of the United Nations. Somalia is the country worst affected by a severe drought that has ravaged large swaths of the Horn of Africa, leaving an estimated 11 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. (UN Photo/Stuart Price)
A regular, non-comprehensive roundup of current news links on hunger and poverty issues from around the Web.
"Congress Set to Begin Work on Farm Bill," by Ron Nixon, New York Times. A solid, basic look at the what will happen in the Senate and House around the farm bill, the rough timetable, and what is at stake.
"Top Chef star urges Congress to support anti-hunger programs," by Josh Hicks, Washington Post. Tom Colicchio joined Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) at a screening of A Place at the Table and met with members of Congress to encourage them to protect and strengthen programs that fight hunger.
"Food aid for the 21st century," by John Kerry, Tom Vilsack, and Rajiv Shah, Chicago Tribune (op-ed). Secretary of State Kerry, Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack, and USAID administrator Shah on modernizing food aid.
"Twelve Things You Can to To Fight Poverty Now," by Greg Kaufmann, The Nation. Sister Simone Campbell of NETWORK Lobby, Marci Phillips of the National Council on Aging, Jim Will of Food Research and Action Center, tell you what you can do, right now to make a difference. (No.11: Tell Congress: Increase, Don't Cut SNAP).
"These Three Charts Show How the World Could End Extreme Poverty by 2030," by Howard Schneider, Washington Post.