Lawmakers in Washington, D.C. are in the midst of planning for the 2018 Farm Bill, a massive piece of legislation that, among other things, provides structure and funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the cornerstone of our nation’s nutrition safety net. For generations, the Farm Bill has served as a shining example of bipartisanship in addressing a broad range of issues that impact our nation’s food systems and the people who rely on them.
But we are seeing an alarming trend in debates on the Farm Bill—the promotion of a dangerous, partisan ideology about who is deserving of support. Every day in the news, we read yet another politician’s divisive rhetoric about our need to root out abuse, as if scores of Americans are milking the system so they can live the good life on the government dime. About how SNAP should be reserved for those “truly in need” or deemed “poor enough” to be worthy of assistance. About the magical thinking that good-paying work is available to anyone who wants it, as if somehow all the people who don’t have well-paying jobs have chosen that path for themselves.
Make no mistake: cuts to SNAP will have a devastating impact on millions of low-income Americans, including veterans, children, seniors, and people with disabilities. No group is more often lambasted than ABAWDs (able-bodied adults without dependents), whom politicians assert should have their access to SNAP restricted to just three months of support every three years. What these politicians fail to recognize is that, in many circumstances, there are not proper opportunities in their community—either appropriate jobs for people with their skills or sufficient training programs so they can learn new ones.
Perpetuating stereotypes and maligning categories of Americans is not the kind of leadership we need. Rhetoric and bluster do not serve our nation well— instead they imperil the lives of tens of millions of people who are doing everything they can just to get by. We cannot allow that to happen. We must stand up and demand a just Farm Bill that protects programs like SNAP, whose only purpose is to help struggling Americans put food on the table.
Although the Farm Bill represents less than one percent of the federal budget, those who decry a swelling federal deficit see it as an easy target for cuts. Especially ripe for slashing are those programs that are authorized in the nutrition title, SNAP being the largest among them. But weakening SNAP will worsen the problem of hunger, not help to end it.
You can find more information about MAZON’s 2018 Farm Bill priorities here.