MAZON hit the road last week, joining more than 1,000 leaders at the National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference in Washington, D.C.Over three days, advocates, service providers, community leaders, and activists came together to discuss pressing issues including the 2018 Farm Bill, President Trump’s budget proposal, SNAP, food bank nutrition, and student hunger.
Fired Up at the Plenaries
The energy of the attendees was high in recognition that we face the largest threats to public benefits in 50 years. SNAP champion and ranking member on the House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Nutrition, Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA-03), got a standing ovation after declaring, “The Harvest Box is the stupidest idea from this Administration,” and drew clear lines in the sand: “No cuts to SNAP. No structural changes. No block grants. No more hurdles put in place for people who need food to be able to get food.”
In contrast, the crowd loudly booed Food and Nutrition Service Administrator and Acting Deputy Under Secretary of Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Brandon Lipps, when he promoted that same “Harvest Box” and suggested that “new ideas are hard to process.”
MAZON Takes the Stage
Marla Feldman, MAZON’s Senior Program Director, debuted the results of MAZON’s National Food Bank Survey, which leverages more than a decade of MAZON’s work to promote the health and wellness of low-income communities that rely on the charitable food network. “A Tipping Point: Leveraging Opportunities to Improve the Nutritional Quality of Food Bank Inventory” is an unprecedented report that assesses how nutrition is addressed and the proportion of healthy versus unhealthy foods distributed within the charitable food system.
Samuel Chu, MAZON’s National Synagogue Organizer, co-led a discussion on college student hunger, emphasizing that “building food pantries on campuses is a first step, but not the answer,” priming a room of over 200 people to “build the politics from the ground up” to “achieve needed policy change.”
To Capitol Hill
We then headed to Capitol Hill to meet with members of Congress from both sides of the aisle. We expressed grave concern about the increasing emphasis on work requirements for Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWDs). Touted as encouraging ‘self-sufficiency,’ these proposals would cause more people to go hungry, and would do nothing to help them find jobs.
MAZON staff also urged legislators to protect SNAP and stressed the importance of a bipartisan, transparent Farm Bill process.
Our Immediate Path Forward
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway’s draft of the 2018 Farm Bill is expected to go public in the coming few weeks. Rep. McGovern said he hasn’t seen a single word. That isn’t a good sign. MAZON, in coordination with our partners around the country, will continue to monitor the situation and prepare for a fight to preserve vital nutrition programs. Stay tuned – 2018 will be a consequential year in the fight to end hunger in the United States!