Penn Live: Stand with us for a strong Farm Bill
At the United Way of Pennsylvania and the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank, we advocate for families to receive the proper nutrition to fight hunger and improve their lives and the communities in which they live.
About two-thirds of the people that food banks and their local agencies serve are making impossible trade-offs between paying for food and other necessities like rent, transportation, health care and utilities. Whether they need help for a week, or help over the course of several months, food banks work to make sure no one goes hungry.
Thousands of Pennsylvanians continue to struggle to get back on their feet and for many, work earnings are not providing protection from food insecurity. One way to help struggling workers in our community is through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly referred to as SNAP.
SNAP serves 1.8 million Pennsylvanians - seniors, families with children, people working in low-wage jobs, veterans, and people with disabilities - all of whom rely on SNAP to put food on the table.
However, SNAP is not a way of life. Seventy-four percent of SNAP families in Pennsylvania have at least one working adult.
For families working long days and earning low wages, SNAP helps stretch their budget to provide the basics. The program provides temporary relief to struggling families, helping them stay healthy and feed their children while they get back on their feet.
And most of the time, the benefits are insufficient, amounting to less than $1.40 per person per meal on average, but absolutely critical to supplement the tight budgets of low-income families. Of the nearly 1.9 million Pennsylvanians benefiting from SNAP, more than 680,000 are children.
SNAP also directly supports farmers, the local economy, retailers, processors, and many other individuals and organizations.
Moody's Analytics estimates that for every dollar spent on SNAP, around $1.70 of economic activity is generated. Federally-funded SNAP benefits to Pennsylvanians were nearly $2.7 billion, resulting in approximately $4.5 billion of economic impact to the state, during fiscal year 2017. This sustained tens of thousands of Pennsylvania jobs, from farm to fork.
The federal Farm Bill is reauthorized by Congress every five years and is the major food and farm legislation in the United States.
With reauthorization due in the fall of 2018, discussions on the bill have centered around SNAP. It is imperative we protect SNAP and provide food for those who, in many cases, are working but don't earn enough to meet their basic needs.
Our communities, rural and urban alike, need this vital program to ensure Pennsylvanians have food to put on their tables to remain healthy and active participants in our workforce.
We urge our nation's leaders to support and reauthorize the Farm Bill in a timely manner and do so in a way that strengthens, not erodes, agriculture, conservation, and anti-hunger programs.
Programs like SNAP work in tandem with food banks such as the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank and community organizations like the United Way to assist low-income individuals and families during challenging times.
Strong support for SNAP can only leave our neighboring families, children, and communities in a healthier place while strengthening our economy.
Joe Arthur is Executive Director of the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank. Kristen Rotz is the president of the United Way of Pennsylvania. They write from Harrisburg.