…And we still don’t have a Farm Bill
Last Thursday, the House of Representatives failed to pass the Farm Bill (the first time this has happened in 40 years). Though we do need a Farm Bill, we did not need this one. The Farm Bill governs most of the U.S.’s agricultural policy from subsidies for farmers to how the United States delivers foreign food aid. The bulk of the bill, however, governs nutrition programs including SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), formerly known as food stamps.
The House proposed slashing SNAP by 26% (or $20.5 billion!) – much steeper than the Senate’s cut of $4 billion. The Administration threatened to veto the House’s cuts if the bill made it out of Congress on the basis of the huge cuts to SNAP. These cuts would have been equivalent to 200 food banks completely shutting down for two and half years.
During the school year, I help run the HUC-JIR (Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion) New York campus’s soup kitchen. The HUC-JIR soup kitchen is governed by Jewish values. The Torah tells us that God feeds the hungry (Deut 10:18-19) and that we should leave the corners of our fields unharvested for the poor and the hungry (Lev. 19:9-10). On Monday afternoons, we host 60-80 guests who need a meal. Many of our guests work and have homes (or apartments, after all it is New York City), but they need an extra meal each week to ensure they can pay their bills. We do not receive any federal aid, but instead rely on some small grants and generous donations.
If the House’s proposed cuts had passed, millions more children and adults would be at risk of suffering from hunger. For American families trying to make ends meet, who continue to struggle even without the House’s proposed cuts, it would be catastrophic if this Farm Bill had passed. And if members of our community continue to suffer, the very food banks and soup kitchens that they rely on, including the New York campus’s, would find it difficult, if not impossible, to serve the increased demand. We need a just Farm Bill that reflects our Jewish and moral responsibility to care for those struggling the most in our communities.