We are facing a major hunger crisis

| 31 Dec 2019 | 10:59

To the Editor:

As Pennsylvanians, we care for each other, and we are facing a crisis here in our state. Since Congress passed the 2018 Farm Bill, eligibility rules for those receiving SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits are being changed, not by our legislators, but by three recent rule changes from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). It is estimated that together, these changes will eliminate or reduce SNAP benefits for up to 700,000 of our fellow Pennsylvanians and dramatically increase the number of individuals of all ages seeking assistance from food pantries and other feeding programs.

Here are a few facts about SNAP: SNAP benefits can only be used to purchase food. The average monthly per person benefit is $138. One dollar of SNAP benefits generates $1.73 of local economic activity or benefit.

Organized letter writing campaigns to speak out during the comment period for the rule changes have been to no avail. By their own admission, the USDA reviewed only one quarter of the comments submitted on the first rule change focusing on SNAP work requirements. The remaining three quarters were dismissed as consisting of “duplicates, form letters, or non-germane submissions.” We can expect that the USDA will follow a similar pattern with the next two rule changes. Just read the comments in the Federal Register if you need verification of the USDA’s technical approach.

So, where will our hungry neighbors turn for help? To food pantries and charity kitchens: these are already seeing large increases in the number of families they serve, and the need will grow. Please support the food programs in your community with donations of food, money, or time. They ensure that healthy food is available to those in need. Let’s not hold back food for the hungry.

Jim Snodgrass, Pat Moulton, Nancy Potter, Carmela Montaperto, and Bruce Baker

Volunteers for the Ecumenical Food Pantry of Pike County