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Urge Your Member of Congress to Protect SNAP!

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) provides basic food assistance for low-income families to combat hunger, food insecurity, and poverty. In 2016, SNAP lifted more than 3.5 million Americans above the poverty line, making it one of the government’s most effective anti-poverty tools.

Congress includes SNAP in the farm bill, a larger bill that contains a host of agriculture programs (like subsidies for farmers, foreign food aid, food safety, etc.). The farm bill expires every five years, meaning Congress debates and amends the provisions each cycle. The current bill is set to expire on September 30, 2018, and work has been underway for many months to draft the next farm bill.

The House of Representatives recently released its version of the farm bill. Unfortunately, this bill undermines SNAP. By including structural changes to SNAP, this bill imposes new barriers that make it harder for food insecure people to access the support they need to obtain an adequate, nutritious diet. This means advocacy in support of SNAP is even more important right now.

Urge your members of Congress to protect SNAP and support the millions of Americans who utilize this critical anti-poverty program.

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  • Background

    The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) is a vital program that helps mitigate hunger and food insecurity for millions of people. The program’s benefits are widespread. In January 2016, 45.4 million people participated in SNAP, nearly half of whom were children.

    SNAP assists millions of people who would be food insecure if not for SNAP funding. Almost 70 percent of SNAP participants are in families with at least one child, and more than a quarter are families with someone who is elderly or has a disability. Cuts and changes to SNAP would directly impact some of our country’s most vulnerable people, forcing impossible choices and unjust living conditions.

    The House farm bill, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (H.R. 2), contains many harmful changes to SNAP. This bill imposes new, harsher work requirements, which require participation in work-related activities as a precondition for receiving SNAP. The farm bill already includes work requirements for SNAP which push people off the program prematurely. Adding even more onerous requirements would only increase barriers for America’s most vulnerable people to be able to access the nutritious food they need to survive.

    Other detrimental changes include expanding these work requirements to cover more people, including people up to 59 years of age and those with children over six years old, and narrowing states’ flexibility to adjust eligibility requirements according to circumstances within the state. The changes to SNAP in the House farm bill would restrict or eliminate access to SNAP for millions of people. The people who would be the most negatively impacted are those who are already the most vulnerable, including those who have unpredictable work schedules, live in areas with major obstacles to employment, and don’t earn a living wage. Simply put, this farm bill will leave more Americans hungry.

    The House of Representatives voted on its version of the farm bill on Friday, May 18. We were relieved to see the initial vote fail. However, we understand that the House is expected to vote on the bill again toward the end of June. As the House farm bill process continues and the Senate works on its own version, we must demand a farm bill that protects SNAP.

    Jewish Values

    Jewish tradition teaches us that we must fight hunger not individually, but rather by working together as a community. During Talmudic times, Jewish communities ran tax-financed programs that helped feed the hungry. 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 on Psalms 118:17).

    More Information

    For more on this issue, visit the RAC’s hunger page, or check out the RACBlog. You can also contact Eisendrath Legislative Assistant Susannah Cohen at (202) 387-2800.