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By Kent Olson, Desert Southwest Conference Chair of Church & Society

The Association of Arizona Food Banks publishes a quarterly newsletter entitled Hunger-Free AZ News. Their just-published Fall edition contains the following information regarding current legislation being considered in Washington which will ultimately determine whether millions of Americans will continue to have access to the support needed to meet their nutritional needs.  Here’s what the Association has to say:

SNAP Works: What’s at Stake in the 2018 Farm Bill?

The SUPPLEMENTAL NUTRITION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (SNAP) is a federal program that provides support for children, seniors, people with disabilities, and working families to purchase food. You may know it by its old name, food stamps. Our country’s most comprehensive and effective anti-hunger program, SNAP helps people out of poverty, and supports families of underemployed, temporarily unemployed, and low-wage workers.

People like Michelle. Michelle, a member of the San Carlos Apache Tribe, is a single mother of three children ages 6, 5, and 3. She works part time at a grocery store during the school year but quits during the summer to be with her kids. “I get $190 a month in SNAP,” she says, “and my parents help.”

In Arizona, SNAP HELPS NEARLY 850,000 PEOPLE FACING HUNGER EACH MONTH. About 53% are children, 11% are seniors, and 10% are people with a disability. “Work eligible” adults also receive SNAP, and more than half of them work at least 20 hours each week.

SNAP Is at Risk

The Farm Bill governs many agricultural and food programs, including SNAP, and has to be renewed by September 30, 2018. Eligibility changes in the U.S. House of Representatives’ version of the 2018 Farm Bill would impact SNAP’s existing work and work-reporting requirements. It would also drastically increase penalties for noncompliance. These new eligibility criteria would require that parents of children ages six and over, including Michelle, work at least 80 hours each month to participate in SNAP.

The Senate’s version of the 2018 Farm Bill maintains SNAP’s current work requirements, reduces fraud through more reliable methods, and strengthens the program overall.

Both bills have passed and are being reconciled by what’s called a conference committee. Arizona Congressman Tom O’Halleran (District 1), a member of the House Agriculture Committee strong on anti-hunger issues, was recently appointed to the committee. Once those lawmakers propose a compromise bill, it must then pass both the House and the Senate again before heading to the president’s desk.

What can you do?

Contact your representatives and tell them to support SNAP and a compromise that will help, not hurt, Arizonans at-risk of hunger. Email INFO@AZFOODBANKS.ORG to be added to our Advocacy Alerts, find your representatives and learn more about SNAP and other issues that impact hunger in Arizona.

Our scriptures have a thing or two to say about what happens about situations such as these. Consider the words of the prophet Ezekiel:

The word of the Lord came to me: Mortal, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel:  prophesy, and say to them—to the shepherds:  Thus says the Lord God:  Ah, you shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves!  Should not shepherds feed the sheep?  You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fatlings; but you do not feed the sheep.  You have not strengthened the weak, you have not healed the sick, you have not bound up the injured, … you have not sought the lost, but with the force and harshness you have ruled them… (Ezekiel 34:1-4, NRSV)

And here is the language from the newly-proposed United Methodist Social Principles:

… governments are charged to ensure that every person has access to clean water, adequate food, clothing, shelter, education, housing, healthcare and other necessities essential to human flourishing. (The United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society, 2018)

Please consider the difference United Methodists can make. Contact your representative and senators by calling 202-224-3121, and tell them to support SNAP and a compromise that will help, not hurt, Arizonans at-risk of hunger. You can find some helpful “talking point” suggestions from the Association of Arizona Foodbanks at http://www.azfoodbanks.org/images/uploads/PDF’s/AAFB_Farm_Bill_talking_points.pdf

You can also find a very informative “policy brief” they have prepared at http://www.azfoodbanks.org/images/uploads/PDF’s/Publications/SNAP_Works_AAFB_Policy_Brief.pdf

Whether Michelle—and nearly a million of Arizonans like her—will have access to adequate nutrition may well depend on whether you make the time in the next several days to contact your representative and senators.  Remember, the Good Samaritan no doubt also had a lot of other things to do that day.

Sources:

Association of Arizona Food Banks. (2018, Fall). Hunger-Free AZ News: AAFB’s Newsletter. Retrieved from http://www.azfoodbanks.org: http://www.azfoodbanks.org/images/uploads/PDF’s/2017%20Hunger%20Free%20AZ/AAFB_Fall2018_Hungerfreeaznews.pdf

The United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society. (2018, April 11). United Methodist Social Principles. Retrieved from www.umcjustice.org: https://www.umcjustice.org/documents/89

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