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.
Just over a year ago, the streets of Charlottesville were filled with the anti-Semitic, anti-Black and anti-immigrant chants of hate by white supremacists. That disturbing weekend ended violently, with one protester killed and dozens more injured.
Charlottesville could have been a line in the sand against hate. Instead, violence toward marginalized individuals and communities -- fueled by historical and structural racism and anti-Semitism, and our country’s increasing comfort with nationalism -- continues to escalate: In the last week alone, a gunman shot and killed two Black senior citizens in a grocery store after being refused entry to a Black church where all evidence indicates he intended to open fire on congregants. Over a dozen pipe bombs were sent to politicians and members of the media by an individual with a nationalist and extremist agenda. And another gunman entered a synagogue, killing 11 congregants as they worshiped.
The Food Trust was founded with the mission to ensure that everyone has access to affordable, nutritious food and information to make healthy decisions. The word “everyone” is important: As a public health organization committed to diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice, we reject the notions of white supremacy, anti-Semitism, hatred and bigotry. We denounce those who would intimidate, oppress, injure or kill some of the most vulnerable members of our society.
In this spirit, we will take the role of ally, follower or leader, as the situation dictates, to achieve our common goals and dismantle systems of oppression wherever we encounter them. We are prepared to make sacrifices for our commitment to these causes. We look forward to working with those of you who share these ideals and values.
Our thoughts are with those grieving these terrible losses, and our actions are focused on utilizing every resource within our power to work toward a more fair and just society for all.
The Food Trust
In America, no child should go hungry, and no parent should have to choose between eating healthy and eating enough. Established in 1933, the Farm Bill is the United States government’s primary vehicle for funding policies and programs relating to food and agriculture—from food safety and nutrition education to employment practices and conservation efforts. Every five years, Congress reauthorizes this sweeping piece of legislation in an effort to prevent hunger, bring fresh foods to communities lacking access, and add vibrancy and diversity to the local food system.
However, funding for critical programs that uplift our food system and provide nutrition benefits to millions of Americans is under threat.
The Trump administration announced its plans for the 2018 Farm Bill, including billions of dollars in cuts that would directly impact families and farmers across the country. The plan, which includes government delivery of a canned food box, has the potential to dramatically disrupt the American food system from farm to fork—exacerbating hunger and health problems, and resulting in store closings and job losses in urban and rural communities alike.
In the Philadelphia region, these issues threaten to dismantle a strong and thriving community foodscape — from food retailers in danger of losing their jobs to farmers at risk of losing their livelihood. Urban and rural communities are inextricably linked through the food system, and each piece of the Farm Bill addresses these connections in one form or another. Food ties us together; and together, we can ensure our food system is resilient, equitable and healthy for years to come.
Where you live can have a huge influence on your day-to-day decisions about what to eat. Over the years, researchers have studied the matter to better understand how our environment can both support and undermine our health and diet. One important finding has been that low-income communities and communities of color often have the fewest places to purchase healthy, affordable food.
As a response to this public health crisis, federal, state and local governments have sought to combat food deserts and food swamps (often one and the same) by starting programs like healthy food financing initiatives (HFFIs), which provide low-cost financing to grocery stores that want to invest in underserved communities. These programs increase access to — and build demand for — healthy food in communities with high rates of diet-related disease and food insecurity. They also provide more jobs in communities that often have high rates of unemployment.
For 30 years, Pittsburgh's Hill District lacked a supermarket, that is, until the opening of a Shop 'n' Save in 2013 through an HFFI program. A recently released study by the RAND Corporation has found that the opening of the new grocery store resulted in less food insecurity and fewer new cases of diet-related disease for community residents. Hill District residents have since experienced fewer new cases of high cholesterol, arthritis and diabetes over time when compared to a similar community that did not receive a supermarket. The supermarket community also experienced less food insecurity, lower SNAP participation and increasing resident incomes. (Since less than 1% of the community moved away from the neighborhood, these improvements can’t be linked to gentrification.)
This study provides strong evidence that introducing a new supermarket in a previously underserved community brings both health and economic gains for local residents. That news alone should encourage elected officials to take more action and double down on their investments to ensure that new and improved supermarkets -- and their corresponding health and economic benefits -- exist in every ZIP code nationwide. No one should have to wait 30 years for a grocery store, and every child should grow up in a community where affordable, healthy food is within reach.