In just 5 days the Senate will vote on the Farm Bill. The current version proposes, among other things, over $4 billion in cuts to SNAP (formerly food stamps) over the next 10 years. As the economy pulls itself up in recovery, those most vulnerable in our communities still lag behind and struggle in the remnants of the recession. It is never the time to cut the social safety net—essentially our country’s societal insurance programs—but now is definitely not that time.
As the Senate considers some truly scary amendments (along with some better ones), now is the time to tell your elected officials to protect those most vulnerable in our communities. The vast majority of SNAP benefits go to households with children, seniors or people with disabilities. I can’t see a clearer American parallel from the prophets’ protection of the widow, the stranger and the orphan than these struggling families.
Speak up! Champion the cause of the poor in our nation and bring the biblical prophets’ words to Congress. Tell your Members of Congress to reject any cuts to the vital program of SNAP as the Farm Bill faces its next vote.
For some background on the Farm Bill and how our Jewish values inform its content, here’s a quick refresher course:
The Farm Bill, which sets much of U.S. food and agriculture policy, is currently making its way through Congress. This major legislation, which is only considered every five years, has a far-ranging impact, from foreign assistance and food safety, to environmental conservation and anti-hunger programs.
Anti-hunger programs governed by the Farm Bill, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), help millions of individuals and families keep food on the table in spite of harsh economic conditions. In 2011, more than one in five children in America was hungry. In October of 2012, more than 47.5 million Americans participated in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and the program lifted 3.9 million people out of poverty that year. There is a great and unmistakable need for anti-hunger programs, and Congress must make sure that strong funding for SNAP is included in the Farm Bill.
Past proposals by the House Agricultural Committee slashed SNAP funding by $16 billion over ten years. These are real cuts that will have a damaging effect on real families. Representative James McGovern (D-MA) has introduced H. Res. 90, calling on the House to reject the cuts to SNAP proposed in the current Farm Bill.
Our Jewish tradition further teaches us that we must fight hunger not individually, but rather by working together as a community. The Talmud explains that each Jewish 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).
Tell your Members of Congress to reject any cuts to the vital program of SNAP as the Farm Bill faces its next vote.
Image from PC(USA) Office of Public Witness