Organizations that fight hunger in the U.S. are applauding the 2019 Farm Bill, but they point out that millions of Americans will still need to visit food pantries in the coming year.
The bill signed by President Donald Trump does not include stricter work requirements for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, but that’s still the goal. In a surprise announcement yesterday, the Agriculture Department said it will bypass Congress to impose work requirements.
Colleen Moriarty, executive director of Hunger Solutions Minnesota, says more than half a million people in the state struggle with hunger, including 163,000 children. And some people desperately need government assistance.
“Often, it’s just a way to shame people,” says Moriarty. “People who deserve benefits, people who’ve worked hard all their lives. This is food, and I think that that is lost on some people sometimes when they want to make decisions about who does or doesn’t deserve support.”
The proposed work rule will now enter a 60 day public comment period. It would allow states to waive the requirement only in areas where unemployment is above seven percent.
Currently, work requirements can only be waived if a state’s unemployment is at least 20 percent greater than the national rate.
Moriarty says some work requirements are perfectly logical, because everyone wants to work and support themselves. But she says placing them on people who are older or have disabilities, or those with young children, doesn’t work.
Moriarty says many Americans, not just those on SNAP, are on the brink of food insecurity.
“We still have 3 million visits to food shelves a year in the state of Minnesota,” says Moriarty. “And across the country, there are people who will not have the privilege of having enough food on the table, so that they know where their next meal’s coming from through the holiday season.”
She adds Hunger Solutions Minnesota supports efforts to pass a child nutrition reauthorization bill in the next Congress, making all school meals, summer meals and after-school snacks universal, regardless of family income.