Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria have shown us that we are all vulnerable to circumstances beyond our control, and safety net programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the program formerly known as food stamps can help families through a crisis.
I recently had the opportunity to speak before members of the U.S. House Agriculture Committee at Farmfest in Morgan, Minnesota, about the looming threat of federal cuts to crucial nutrition programs. These programs help almost 650,000 Minnesotans meet basic needs every month. As the Executive Director of Hunger Solutions Minnesota, a statewide organization that engages with a network of nonprofit partners across the state – including the Farmer’s Union and nearly 300 food shelves – I felt it was necessary to speak out about the danger of cutting SNAP.
For Minnesota, a strong SNAP program has meant that we have been able to increase the number of seniors who are able to access nutritious foods; respond quickly to the challenge of the recession for families; and keep the safety net available during economic crisis and natural disasters. Every month, 12 percent of Minnesota’s population receives SNAP benefits. Of that number, 70 percent are people with disabilities, seniors and children.
The Trump Administration has proposed a 25 percent cut to SNAP over the next decade, more than $193 billion over 10 years. Federal safety net programs are critical to alleviating hunger in our communities, and the severe cuts in the proposed federal budget jeopardize the health of our people. In Minnesota alone, nearly 120,000 people could lose SNAP benefits and access to nutritious foods – forcing already struggling families to go hungry right now – should these cuts be enacted.
SNAP helps keep nutritious food on struggling families’ tables. The program is particularly responsive during disasters, like Hurricane Harvey. The ability of the program to expand enrollment when unemployment rises, and contract again when the economy improves, is essential to the recovery of Minnesotans. While enrollment has decreased in recent years as the economy improved, not all Americans and not all Minnesotans have enjoyed the same recovery.
Programs like SNAP are critical to helping all Minnesotans lead healthy lives. In this state, we have a long legacy of helping our neighbors in need. If federal funding for these programs is cut, it will put an incredible strain on the hunger-relief infrastructure. Ultimately, we would have to turn our backs on our neighbors when they need us most.
I continue to urge our congressional delegation to oppose any cuts to SNAP and to fully fund the Farm Bill’s nutrition programs, which are so important to the health and well-being of Minnesota.
Colleen Moriarty is the executive director of Hunger Solutions Minnesota.