As Congress works to reauthorize a new farm bill by the end of September, those working to end hunger in the U.S. are encouraged that the latest version would help, not punish, Minnesota’s 621,000 residents who use SNAP benefits.
The comprehensive bill covers the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program as well as farm subsidies, trade and rural development policy.
Colleen Moriarty, executive director of Hunger Solutions Minnesota, says the Farm Bill is the biggest funding opportunity for anti-hunger work in the nation. “The Senate Farm Bill is a real signal of hope, for the fact that we can come up with a farm bill that both helps agriculture and doesn’t hurt poor people,” she states.
The Farm Bill is usually renewed every five years, and the current version is set to expire Sept. 30. Congress is working on a timeline of passing the legislation before the July 4 recess.
The White House has been pushing for tougher work requirements for public assistance programs that target low-income Americans.
Moriarty says there are many misperceptions about fraud and SNAP benefits. “I think the idea that there are people who are committing fraud on the program is one of the things that really stands in the way of hard-working people who just need some help,” she states.
Hunger Solutions also tracks visits to food pantries in Minnesota. Moriarty says 60 percent of the people who visit a food pantry are working, but their wages have either not kept pace with the standard of living, or they have not rebounded from the 2008 financial crisis. “Seniors who need nutrition assistance, or are families with young children and need that assistance or are people who have served our country and need the assistance – that is who it is meant for, and that is who is receiving it,” she states.
Total benefits paid out last year by SNAP nationwide were about $63 billion and went to more than 42 million participants.