Interfaith Anti-Hunger Leaders Present Top Priorities for 2023 Farm Bill

February 28, 2023

MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, Islamic Relief USA, and Bread for the World Urge Congress to Prioritize federal food and nutrition assistance

Three leading national advocacy organizations across different faiths united last week to advocate for strengthening federal food and nutrition programs for people struggling with food insecurity and hunger in the 2023 Farm Bill.

Policy experts from MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, Islamic Relief USA, and Bread for the World presented their organizations’ top priorities for fighting pervasive and intensifying hunger nationwide, and how shared faith values inform this approach. With more than 10 percent of Americans — one of eight people — experiencing food insecurity, including nearly 13 million children, these advocates are united in their values-based approach to addressing hunger in the Farm Bill.

The panelists were particularly focused on protecting and bolstering the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), which is funded through the Farm Bill along with hundreds of billions of dollars in agriculture and food programs. The House and Senate Agriculture Committees are preparing to begin debate on the once-every five-year Farm Bill reauthorization.

The Biden administration boosted SNAP benefits during the pandemic, but those increases will expire March 1 as inflation continues to squeeze all Americans, especially lower-income households. Already this year, some legislators have said they want to cut back further on SNAP and other social supports and add new work restrictions.

“SNAP is the most powerful anti-hunger program we have in this country, so protecting and strengthening SNAP is fundamental for faith community leaders fighting hunger and food insecurity,” said Josh Protas, MAZON’s Vice President of Public Policy. “Our focus on the Farm Bill and SNAP must be centered in dignity and respect for folks who need help.”

Left to Right: Amelia Kegan, Josh Protas, Jihad Saleh Williams (Photo Credit: Lacey Johnson)

Protas also reminded the audience that in the story of Leviticus, the Jews are commanded to set aside a corner of their fields for the poor and the stranger. “We have federal programs supported through our taxes that are our modern-day embodiment of the corners of our fields,” he said.

The panel — moderated by Amelia Kegan, Associate General Secretary for Policy and Advocacy for the Friends Committee on National Legislation — focused on various ways that faith communities engage in the Farm Bill, as well as specific policy priorities.

Jihad Saleh Williams, Senior Advisor for Advocacy & Government Affairs for Islamic Relief USA, shared perspectives on the importance of “working with our faith and community partners across the country to make sure that the concerns and interests of Americans who have lived experiences with poverty and hunger are reflected in the final reauthorization bill.”

Ryan Quinn, Deputy Director of Government Relations for Bread for the World added, “we look forward to working together to lift vital hunger and nutrition provisions and programs both domestically and internationally in the legislation.”

Left to Right: Josh Protas, Jihad Saleh Williams, and Ryan Quinn (Photo Credit: Lacey Johnson)