Oh, SNAP! Protect Anti-Hunger Programs in the Farm Bill
I’m only on day four of my one-week SNAP Challenge and I already feel like I’ll hurl if I have to eat another peanut butter sandwich. At the beginning of the week, I allotted myself $31.50, the average stipend for an individual benefitting from food stamps, consulted my nutrition advisors (mom and dad), and made one of the most boring grocery lists I have ever seen, with my goals being to eat as healthy as possible and maximize my protein intake. My diet for this week consists of a lot of peanut butter, pasta and eggs. While I am finding the food stamp budget extremely limiting (though still doable) my simulated experience does not come close to the experiences of the over 48 million people benefitting from SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). I constantly find myself worried about eating too much food because I am afraid I will run out. As a result, I have rarely felt full after a meal and am often hungry again well before my next meal and before I go to bed. I believe the biggest difference in my experience this week from those who are actually on the SNAP program is that I catch myself looking forward to what foods I’ll be able to eat next week, when my challenge is over. This experience is not shared by SNAP program beneficiaries because their challenge is never over. For them, every week, every month, and sometimes every year they are on the SNAP challenge.
Leviticus 19: 9-10 tells us, “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap all the way to the corners of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. You shall not pick your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger.” As Jews, we are obligated to feed the hungry, to leave the metaphorical corners of our fields (most of us do not actually grow our own food anymore) for those who need it.
The Farm Bill is a five-year bill that governs a vast amount of the agriculture industry and the federal Food and Nutrition Service. On June 10, the Senate passed their version of the Farm Bill, which included $4.1 billion in cuts to the SNAP Program. Today, the House failed to pass their version of the Farm Bill with $20 billion in cuts to the SNAP Program. These cuts would devastate the program, which serves as a safety net from hunger and poverty for almost 50 million Americans. Proposed cuts to the SNAP Program would severely reduce the size of the corners of our “fields” that we allot for the hungry.
It is now very unclear what will happen to this massive bill, with over $900 billion worth of programming in it. Stay tuned to the RACblog for updates.