As advocates in Missouri much of our time is spent working the halls of Jefferson City, especially from January-May. Many of us use summer as a time to relax and take a breath. This summer, though, has not been a time of relaxation. Our work has merely shifted from Jefferson City to Washington DC.
This is the year for the reauthorization of the Farm Bill.
The Farm Bill is a comprehensive package of legislation passed once every five years that has a direct impact on agriculture, food systems, and consumers. The Farm Bill is broken down into different titles (12 in 2018), each of which addresses different departments. It covers programs ranging from crop insurance for farmers to healthy food access for low-income families.
Title IV, the “nutrition title,” authorizes several federal nutrition programs. Specifically, the Farm Bill reauthorizes the SNAP program, the largest anti-hunger program in our nation. Every month roughly 600,000 Missourians, and more than 41 million Americans across the country, rely on assistance from the SNAP Program. SNAP helps people with low incomes buy food without having to miss their rent payments, do without needed medicines, or forgo other necessities. Quite simply, SNAP is the only way many Americans can afford to put a decent meal on the table from day to day.
As nutrition access advocates, this summer and early fall has been a critical time to let our Congressional delegation know our priorities for the upcoming Farm Bill reauthorization. Empower Missouri has put together this primer with our priorities. But simply put we are asking Congress to PROTECT AND STRENGTHEN THE SNAP PROGRAM.
We are advocating for legislation that will improve and strengthen SNAP by:
- Eliminating barriers for college students with low incomes to access SNAP.
- Repealing the lifetime federal ban on individuals with felony drug convictions from receiving SNAP.
- Allowing SNAP benefits to be used to purchase hot prepared foods from grocery stores or convenience stores, like hot rotisserie chicken.
- Creating a process to allow for online ordering and delivery of food purchased with SNAP dollars.
Several bills have been introduced that could be added to the Farm Bill that include these enhancements:
- S.1488/H.R.3183 (The EATS Act of 2023): Introduced by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-CA), the EATS ACT would eliminate the barriers that college students with low incomes face when accessing SNAP by eliminating the requirement that most half time college students must perform work study or 20 hours or more per week of outside employment.
- H.R. 3479/S.1753 (The RESTORE Act): Introduced by Reps. Steve Cohen (D-TN) and John Rutherford (R-FL) and Sens. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) and Cory Booker (D-NJ)., the Restore Act would repeal the lifetime federal ban on individuals with felony drug convictions from receiving SNAP.
- H.R. 3519 (The Hot Foods Act, formerly the SNAP Plus Act): Introduced by Rep. Meng (D-NY), the Hot Foods Act ends the prohibition on use of SNAP benefits to purchase hot prepared foods from food retailers. Our Food Security Coalition has worked on similar provisions at the state level, known as the Restaurant Meals Program. This program could be life changing for individuals who receive SNAP benefits but lack access to safe and effective food storage and preparation equipment, or who have physical barriers to preparing food for themselves. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) recently introduced a companion Senate bill.
SNAP is the cornerstone of the nation’s nutrition and food security safety net, helping to put food on the table for nearly 42 million participants with low incomes each month. We know that hunger is linked to worse health and education outcomes, behavioral problems and delayed development in children, and higher health costs. If SNAP is cut or weakened, it will mean millions of Americans, especially those with a disability, the elderly, and children and families who are already struggling, will face greater food insecurity, leading to greater strain on our communities, and health and education systems. We simply cannot ignore the opportunity to strengthen SNAP in the 2023 Farm Bill.
You can join Empower Missouri and our national partners in advocating for a strong Farm Bill by joining our Food Security Coalition and by reaching out directly to your Member of Congress.