Record Day of Advocacy in Kansas and Nebraska
By Zach Schmidt
Last Wednesday, March 13, was a big day for hunger advocates in the Great Plains states. On that “game day” leaders across Kansas and Nebraska scored an impressive, triple-digit number of phone calls to the offices of Sens. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Mike Johanns (R-Neb.). More than 200 phone calls were logged between the states—an all-time high! And many callers reported having substantive conversations with the senators’ staffers.
The calls targeted a bill recently introduced by Sen. Roberts and cosponsored by Sen. Johanns, the Improve Nutrition Program Integrity and Deficit Reduction Act (S.458), which would cut $36 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) and result in nearly 1 million recipients losing benefits. Hunger advocates, joined by faith leaders in both states, find this unacceptable, and they let their elected officials know that now is not the time to cut nutrition assistance.
The strong showing on March 13 was a result of leadership and teamwork. A dozen key players, including bishops, pastors, directors and lay leaders, encouraged their contacts and connections to make phone calls. Communication was key: leaders shared updates on whom they had asked to make calls, who had committed to call, and what the callers heard back from the offices of the senators. Each of the leaders got behind this, and they delivered the bulk of the calls. Congratulations and thanks to everyone who made a call and especially to those who led others to call! This was one for the books.
Less than a week later, hunger advocates in Kansas and Nebraska enjoyed another big day. On Monday, March 18, two separate opinion pieces from respected local leaders were posted in the Omaha World-Herald and the Lincoln Journal-Star, Nebraska’s two largest newspapers. In their own unique way, these leaders voiced their support for SNAP, pointed out the damaging impact of S.458, and urged Sen. Johanns to reject the bill. There hasn’t been enough said about hungry and poor people during these budget debates—not from the mainstream media and not from members of Congress on either side of the aisle. These op-eds—and others like them—help to break this silence.
With these big days of phone calls and op-eds, hunger advocates in Nebraska and Kansas are standing with people in their communities, in their states, and in our nation who stand to lose the most in the budget debates. It is a privilege to work in partnership with them.
Zach Schmidt is a Bread for the World regional organizer in the Central Hub, which includes Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska.
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