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Dear Member of Congress:
As informed advocates for hunger-relief, we understand that the Farm Bill will be reauthorized in 2012; we are writing to express our priorities in this legislation:
Fierce opposition to structural changes and budget cuts that would weaken the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP);
Support proposals that would increase access to and affordability of healthy foods which will further reduce food-insecurity, as well as obesity and the public health crisis that results from eating more processed foods than fresh fruits and vegetables.
For four decades SNAP has enjoyed strong bipartisan support and has been a fundamental bulwark for the poorest and hungriest people in our nation. Deemed “a government reform that worked” by the National Journal, the program serves as the nation’s first line of defense against hunger. If it is weakened, many millions of seniors, people with disabilities, children, struggling parents – working and unemployed – and others will suffer.
SNAP has extraordinary strengths:
It reduces hunger and food insecurity by providing very low‐income people desperately needed, targeted assistance to purchase food through an effective and efficient electronic benefit transfer system. In Nevada, it has brought more than $400,000,000 directly to low-income households.
When the national economy or a regional, state or area economy is in trouble, the program is among the most effective government responses. From 2008-2011, SNAP participation in Nevada tripled to about 339,000, equal to the unemployment rate which swelled from about 5% to 15%. Today, Nevada still has the highest unemployment rate in the U.S.
Because SNAP benefits are so urgently needed by families, they are spent quickly—97 percent of benefits are redeemed by the 15th of the month — thereby bolstering local economies. Estimates issued by Moody’s Analytics and others of the economic growth impact of SNAP during a recession range from $1.73 to $1.79 per $1 of SNAP benefits.
SNAP is targeted to go to the neediest people in our country. 93 percent of benefits go to households with incomes below the poverty line. This includes millions of working poor families and vulnerable populations: nearly one-in-ten are senior citizens and half are children 18 years of age or younger.
SNAP lifted 3.6 million Americans above the poverty line in 2009, including 2.1 million children and 200,000 seniors. SNAP is as effective as the Earned Income Tax Credit in lifting families above the poverty line, and far more effective than any other program in lifting families out of deep poverty.
Hunger (frequently termed “food-insecurity”) is a complex social phenomenon that is closely related to poverty and even more closely correlated to unemployment. Many suggest that when 1 in 6 individuals (16%) struggle to have an adequate food supply, that government and charitable nutrition assistance programs like SNAP are not the only interventions needed. Access to healthy, affordable foods are key to further reducing hunger, as well as obesity and the epidemic of chronic disease across the lifespan. For the first time ever, our children are expected to live shorter lives due to the prevalence of diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. These conditions are most often caused by poor diet.
All Americans, not just food-insecure persons, now eat a diet largely based on processed foods rather than fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains. That’s because processed foods are cheaper, especially for the 44 million American’s depending on SNAP who are trying to stretch their monthly food budget. Yet research shows that people want to eat healthy, fresh foods, regardless of their social-economic status and that when given the option of healthier foods at lower prices, they chose healthy foods.
In 2011, Three Square food bank distributed nearly 25 million pounds of food in Southern Nevada, 10 million of which was fresh produce. In distributing more fresh produce nationwide than ever before, food banks are joining the efforts of food justice groups to advocate for increased access and affordability of fresh foods, which will further reduce food-insecurity and increase the nation’s health.
As an elected leader working on behalf of Nevadans, we encourage you to fiercely oppose structural changes and budget cuts in the SNAP program which relieves pressure on overwhelmed food banks, pantries, religious congregations and other emergency food providers across the country. Furthermore, we encourage you to support efforts to increase access and affordability of healthy, fresh foods that will further reduce hunger and begin to reverse the trend of obesity and chronic disease which cripples our citizens and reduces our nation’s productivity and competitiveness in the world economy. Hunger-relief is a moral and economic imperative.