As we give thanks and celebrate ties of friendship and family this holiday season, we are reminded that no one should have to choose between family and food.
As you may know, the Trump administration recently proposed a "public charge" rule — now posted for public comment here — that would make it harder for immigrants and refugees in this country to become eligible to receive federal benefits. If adopted, families across the U.S. would lose access to a range of nutrition, health and housing benefits, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP is the nation's first line of defense against hunger, and provides food for millions of children, seniors, those with disabilities, veterans and working people.
Since the proposal was made public, service organizations across the country have reported drops in enrollment, and believe the administration has created an environment of fear and misinformation. The Food Trust is opposed to this rule, which would harm our efforts and those of our many partners to address food insecurity, healthy food access and poverty. Immigrants and refugees in America can face a myriad of challenges, and should not be afraid to access public assistance to help them deal with setbacks they may encounter along their journey. Their reasons for arrival in this country range from the darkest despair to the highest hope for a better life. As such, this proposal stands in stark contrast to the words engraved on that most American of icons, the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. … Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me.”
As we near the end of a 60-day public comment period on December 10, we encourage our partners to provide comments and testimony. The national Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) has developed sample comments and has posted additional information about the rule here; we invite you to join us and add your voice by commenting, and to share this information with your networks. During this time, let us not forget that no one should be afraid to seek help for their children when facing hunger.
Congress needs to go back to the drawing board and produce a bipartisan Farm Bill that creates jobs, supports farmers, improves health and ensures that no one in America goes hungry.
Taking food away from families as punishment for not being able to find a job in this economy is the wrong approach. We need to create more good-paying jobs so that fewer Americans need to rely on SNAP. The cuts proposed will also hurt the economy and cause a downward spiral as more jobs are lost and more food assistance is required. The bill also hurts small farmers by cutting programs that promote farmers markets and local food systems and attempts to restructure the national SNAP-Ed nutrition education program in a way that will disrupt services and worsen health outcomes.
While the bill includes some smart policies such as the re-authorization of the Healthy Food Financing Initiative and the expansion of the Food Insecurity Incentive program, it fails to deliver a national food and farm strategy that prevents hunger, strengthens the farm economy, protects the environment and improves health.
--Yael Lehmann, President & CEO, The Food Trust