Reform Jewish Leader Responds to SNAP Cuts in Farm Bill
After months of deliberation and deal-making, Congress passed a five-year reauthorization of the Farm Bill on Monday and sent it to President Obama for his signature. While this was truly a feat for such a divided Congress, the Religious Action Center is disappointed to see the Supplemental Nutrition Program cut by nearly $8.6 billion. This vital lifeline ensures that vulnerable men, women and children are able to put food on the table and participate fully in society. In reaction to the passage of the Farm Bill, Rabbi David Saperstein issued the following statement:
Throughout Congress’s lengthy consideration of the Farm Bill we have remained concerned about cuts to the vital Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP helps millions of individuals and families keep food on the table in spite of harsh economic conditions: in September 2013 alone, more than 47.3 million people participated in SNAP. There is a great and unmistakable need for a well-funded SNAP program and it is deeply disappointing to see a final bill pass that contains more than $8 billion in SNAP cuts.
As disappointed as we are with these cuts, this Farm Bill does not include many of the damaging provisions considered in earlier versions of the bill —including work requirements, drug testing and an elimination of categorical eligibility— that together would have pushed 3.8 million Americans off the program. However, the $8.6 billion cut will lower benefits by up to $90 a year for 850,000 American households. While less draconian than the House’s version of the Farm Bill, SNAP funding decreases hurt vulnerable American families, as nearly 75% of SNAP recipients are families with children, seniors or persons with disabilities.
We are inspired by our Jewish tradition that teaches that each community must establish a public fund to provide food for the hungry, and our sages explain that feeding the hungry is one of our most important responsibilities on earth: “When you are asked in the world to come, ‘What was your work?’ and you answer: ‘I fed the hungry,’ you will be told: ‘This is the gate of the Lord, enter into it, you who have fed the hungry’” (Midrash to Psalm 118:17).
We call on Congress to pass H.R. 2384 the Food Security Improvement Act of 2013, which would increase benefits for all SNAP recipients and help ensure families are able to put food on the table every day of the month. SNAP feeds those who are hungry and this program should be a priority for all Americans.