Farm Bill Updates
The Farm Bill, which is renewed every five years, has an important impact on the IFP’s work, both directly and indirectly.
The Bill establishes farm subsidies and support programs for farmers; and secondly, for the poor or disadvantaged, providing a direct safety net, e.g. SNAP (food stamps) and indirect assistance – The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) that provides fresh foods to emergency and supplemental food providers such as IFP (about 15% of our food comes from TEFAP). In the past, legislators would craft legislation that provided fairly for both constituencies. Unfortunately that is not the case today. A great difference exists between the Senate’s and the House’s proposed terms and conditions for this year’s renewal of the Farm Bill.
The House’s version would expand work requirements without providing sufficient resources for job training programs, would cut back utility payment support (Heat & Eat) and would eliminate the ability of individual high cost of living states such as New Jersey to expand basic SNAP eligibility from a cap of 130% of the Federal Poverty Level (about $24,000 per year for a family of four irrespective of location) to 185% of the FPL. The Senate version would basically keep SNAP almost as it is now. While neither version would reduce TEFAP, the House version would likely have a seriously adverse impact on poor families living in high cost of living or high unemployment areas. This would, in turn, create major pressure on emergency and supplemental food providers who would then need to replace lost family nutrition benefits. Both our local House members voted against the House version. Both our Senators voted in favor of the Senate version. It is important for our clients and low income families across the nation that individuals concerned with hunger and food insecurity speak out in favor of the Senate version of the Farm Bill.
Following is our editorial referencing the Bill which was defeated in May:
Many of us who live in Northern New Jersey are not likely to pay close attention to news about the “Farm Bill”. This is totally understandable, but, unfortunately, some of the proposed changes to the “Farm Bill” will actually punish many of our neighbors who are struggling to find work or are working at low-paying jobs with unpredictable hours.
These are the folks who are currently enrolled in SNAP (food stamps) – a program funded by the “Farm Bill” – who would be negatively impacted by proposed changes to basic eligibility rules and the imposition of new work requirements that, for many unemployed or under employed folks, simply are not realistic. These new rules threaten to leave even more New Jersey residents hungry and worrying about how they will feed themselves, their children, their elderly parents.
We at the Interfaith Food Pantry see hunger every day. A large proportion of the folks who come to us are working at low-paying jobs with unpredictable hours, no benefits and no cushion when they face layoffs or other gaps in work – the very people who would be affected by the proposed rule changes.
As a key part of the Morris County safety net, the Interfaith Food Pantry struggles to keep up with the growing need for food. If the proposed rule changes are enacted, we believe we will see even more people who need our help.
The proposal’s sponsor, Congressman Michael Conaway, (R-Texas), believes his changes will lead to greater workforce participation, but does provide sufficient funds for job training or creation.
Our experience tells us that we need to both strengthen SNAP and provide people with meaningful pathways to secure employment. In our view, that’s the best way to fight hunger and poverty
We urge our Congressional representatives, especially Congressman Frelinghuysen representing our District 11, to oppose this damaging proposal and work to create a bi-partisan solution that will give people the food aid they need, while helping them find jobs that pay enough for them to support their families.
Many are aware that for each of the past three years – well after the “great recession” was declared over – the Interfaith Food Pantry has distributed about one million pounds of food. Many are also aware that during the end of 2016 and into 2017 we have been expanding our operations – both in scope and in geographic reach.
In spite of the official end to the Great Recession, several ongoing conditions, rising living costs and stagnant family incomes, make the expansion of our outreach in Morris County necessary. While Morris County is one of the wealthiest counties in the country – the 2016 median household income is $101,661 – a significant part of the local population does not share in the general prosperity.
While jobs are being created, most are in the lower paying service sectors and, increasingly, are not full time with benefits. Many Pantry clients have incomes that fluctuate during the year and thus are “poor” for periods of time. Others have incomes that fluctuate year to year and many simply have very low incomes in spite of full time work. Economists are coming to realize that lack of a steady income contributes to economic uncertainty because of the inability to make a commitment that requires a fixed monthly income. Recent studies (The Financial Diaries, Morduch and Schneider) have shown that many families prefer a steady income, even if somewhat low, to a higher but less predictable income.
Lack of affordable homes – a nationwide issue, but particularly problematic in Morris County urban areas – has driven lower income families either out of the area or to the western or northern rims of the county where public transportation is limited and many services not available. Transfer of local social services to the County exacerbates the problem for those families in need of such services.
Small local food pantries simply do not have the capacity to deal with increasing numbers of clients and do not have the ability to provide fresh produce. Lack of transportation prevents many elderly families from accessing available food supplies.
Our expanded operations, including the mobile pantry, the farmers market, the senior box program, the pantry partner program, “Single Stop” and significantly increased “gleaning” operation are – like construction of 2 Executive Drive – the result of an extended strategic planning period, driven by the conditions described above. Our plan fully anticipated the need for increased resources as an expected consequence of our decision to ramp up our service to the greater Morris County community and, accordingly, includes enhancement of our resource development capacity.
We have benefitted from extraordinary levels of community support, especially since we made the decision to build our 2 Executive Drive headquarters, warehouse and distribution center. We have complete confidence that our supporters’ commitment to “neighbors helping neighbors” will ensure our ongoing ability to serve as needed.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which many of our clients rely on in addition to the Interfaith Food Pantry, is at risk.
Learn about the “Show and Tell” campaign and how to get involved.
For more information about this topic, please refer to the links below.
- Farm Bill Passes Senate (House vote still to come)….Huffington Post
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)….USDA Food and Nutrition Service
- Farm Bill 2014….Food Research and Action Center (FRAC)
- FoodBank Opposes Farm Bill Cuts….Community FoodBank of New Jersey
ALICE – Asset Limited, Income Constrained, and Employed
- Did you know?
- According to a recent study by the United Way, 1.1 million New Jersey residents struggle to make ends meet.
- In 2011, more than 5,500 Morris County households sought help to put food on the table.
- Many of your neighbors quietly struggle with hunger.
Is ALICE your neighbor? Is ALICE you? Help is available. Click here.
House budget slashes food stamps, school meals. Take action!
The U.S. House Budget Committee is working on a Fiscal Year 2018 budget that includes trillions in cuts for programs that help struggling families afford basics, including SNAP food assistance, school meals, housing and health care, even as it promises more tax breaks to the wealthy.
There’s still time to stop these harmful cuts! Your voice matters. Please call your Congressional representative today. It’s easy. Just click here, enter your address and it will give you contact information for your representative.
Sample script: I am calling to urge (Name of your representative) to reject cuts to food assistance for children and adults and other anti-poverty programs. These programs provide essential supports to many New Jersey residents struggling to make ends meet. Please protect this critical safety net.
You can also reach out to your Members of Congress through social media. Find your Members’ Twitter handles.
The proposed budget includes a $150 billion cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, commonly known as food stamps) over 10 years and a $1.6 billion cut in “Community Eligibility” funding for school meals, which allows high poverty schools to feed all kids for free.
These harsh cuts to SNAP, school meals and other poverty-reduction programs will hurt the most vulnerable in our society, including children, the elderly and people with disabilities.
SNAP helps struggling families and workers put healthy food on their tables. It’s one of our most powerful and cost-effective tools to strengthen the economy and improve public health. School meals are an essential source of nutrition for millions of low-income students.