The House of Representatives passed its latest version of the Farm Bill Thursday with a vote of 217-210. One of the most widely debated issues, food assistance and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), is cut by $39 billion in the current version.
According to Feeding America CEO Bob Aiken, who recently undertook the SNAP Challenge, the cuts could result in more than 1.5 billion meals lost in fiscal year 2014.
“Charity absolutely cannot make up for this substantial cut to federal food assistance,” he said. “Millions of our most vulnerable neighbors will be at increased risk of hunger if these cuts become a reality.”
If the cuts go into effect, Aiken says at least 4 million people will lose their benefits entirely, and 850,000 households will lose an average of $90 per month. In addition, 210,000 children will but cut from free school meal programs.
“These cuts to SNAP, combined with the scheduled American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) cuts to the program—scheduled to go into effect on Nov. 1, 2013—will result in the loss of about 3.4 billion meals provided to low-income Americans in 2014,” Aiken said. “That is more meals than the entire Feeding America Network of 200 food banks distributed through 61,000 food pantries and soup kitchens in 2013.”
Like Feeding America, Bread for the World released a statement saying it is “outraged” by the SNAP cuts in the House Farm Bill.
Bread for the World’s president, Rev. David Beckmann, said, “It is egregious that the House voted for the passage of the bill, as a vote in favor of this bill is a vote in favor of deep SNAP cuts…This type of proposal specifically picks on the poorest and most vulnerable members of our society. As a country that prides itself on a strong moral grounding, this bill is unacceptable.”
Congressman Chaka Fattah (Pa.-02), who voted against the new bill, said, “SNAP is our country’s most important anti-hunger program and a critical lifeline to so many in our community.”
Fattah also vows to fight to restore SNAP funding.
Earlier this year, the Senate passed a bill with $4.1 billion in cuts to SNAP, but included “needed improvements to food aid,” according to Bread for the World. The Farm Bill’s next step is reconciliation with the Senate’s version in a conference committee.
Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance approves of new bill
While SNAP funding may be a hot issue, the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance (SCFBA) urged Congress to “move forward with the Farm Bill and appoint conferees for going to the Conference Committee with the Senate.”
SCFBA also says that the alliance is pleased with both the House and Senate bills, which address specialty crop support issues originally established in the 2008 Farm Bill.
“We look forward to working with negotiators to advance legislation through conference committee and to the president’s desk for his signature,” the alliance said in a statement.