Vermont Anti-Hunger Organizations Applaud Farm Bill Agreement that Protects SNAP and Keeps Food on the Table for Vermonters Struggling Against Hunger

12/14/18farm bill – On Wednesday, Congress overwhelmingly passed a strong, bipartisan Farm Bill that protects the federal nutrition programs and supports our farmers and agricultural economy. The bill that passed is a testament to nearly two years of strong and unwavering advocacy by anti-hunger and farmer organizations, and the steadfast and vocal support of many members of Congress like Vermont’s own Senator Leahy, Senator Sanders, and Congressman Welch. Hunger Free Vermont and the Vermont Foodbank applaud the hard work of their fellow advocates across the country and Congress on this Farm Bill.

After months of congressional debate, and proposals that aimed to devastate our nation’s nutrition safety net and take food away from 2 million Americans, the Farm Bill that is heading to the President’s desk protects the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (known as SNAP, and called 3SquaresVT in Vermont), provides a modest increase in funding for food assistance through The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), expands programs that connect SNAP participants with local food, and will help millions of Americans put food on the table.

The Farm Bill includes many programs that are critical to the health and wellbeing of millions of Americans. SNAP is the nation’s first line of defense against hunger, and provides more than 74,000 Vermonters and 40 million Americans with money to spend on food in grocery stores and farmers markets each month. For every one meal provided by a member of Feeding America’s national network of 200 food banks and 60,000 agency partners, of which the Vermont Foodbank is a member, SNAP provides 12. TEFAP plays a critical role as well, providing food banks and food shelves with nutritious US grown foods to distribute to families in need, including more than 16 million individuals who do not qualify for SNAP assistance.

With the passing of this Farm Bill, Vermonters participating in 3SquaresVT will see no cuts to their food benefits. The bill improves program integrity and also invests in proven approaches to employment and training programs. The approaches were tested in pilots authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill, including Vermont’s successful Jobs for Independence program (JFI). Vermont recently launched the Individual Career Advancement Network (ICAN), building on the work of JFI. ICAN helps participants gain the skills and education they need to obtain stable, good paying jobs, and attain economic self-sufficiency. The bill will also increase access to nutritious, local food, through programs funded by the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Grant Program (FINI), like Vermont’s Crop Cash program, which increases 3SquaresVT participants’ purchasing power at farmers markets across the state, helping more Vermonters buy local food.

“Not only does this Farm Bill protect vital benefits that so many Vermont families and individuals rely on to put food on their tables, it will also bring even more dignity and community benefits to buying food with 3SquaresVT benefits by supporting adults looking for work and creating opportunities for more families to buy local food directly from farmers at farmers markets,” states Anore Horton, Executive Director of Hunger Free Vermont.

“By supporting TEFAP, this Farm Bill will help food banks like the Vermont Foodbank and our partner food shelves to provide more nutritious food to our neighbors in need,” says Vermont Foodbank CEO, John Sayles. “We are grateful to our congressional delegation and to the hardworking anti-hunger advocates who pushed to ensure that this critical five-year bill preserves the federal nutrition programs that support Vermonters struggling with hunger.”

Here in Vermont, work on the Farm Bill began nearly two years ago. The Vermont Farm Bill Nutrition Coalition, made up of anti-hunger advocates, agriculture organizations, state agencies, and community service providers, came together in 2017 to develop a set of priorities that reflect the true needs and values of Vermonters. Over 700 individuals and organizations throughout the state signed on in support of these recommendations. The Coalition worked with the Vermont congressional delegation to make sure these recommendations were represented in Washington. “Hunger Free Vermont is proud to see many of the Vermont Farm Bill Nutrition Coalition’s recommendations reflected in the Farm Bill passed by Congress this week,” says Horton. “This victory proves the power and critical necessity of collective advocacy. We are grateful for Vermont’s congressional delegation’s work to highlight the recommendations and thank advocates across Vermont and the nation for standing together to protect federal nutrition programs.”

“This is a real victory for our neighbors facing hunger,” says Sayles. “We are truly grateful to our fellow Vermont advocates for raising their voices and to our Vermont delegation for working hard to represent the needs of our neighbors facing hunger. With a true commitment to ending hunger, Senator Leahy, Senator Sanders, and Congressman Welch fought hard to ensure that the government will play its part in solving hunger in our country.”