Senator Tina Smith Visits Second Harvest Heartland
With Congress poised to pass a new five-year farm bill in the coming months, United States Senator Tina Smith (D-Minnesota) visited Second Harvest Heartland on May 5 to learn more about Minnesota’s emergency food system and the critical need the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, meets for children, seniors and working families who do not have enough food to eat.
Senator Smith conversed with our CEO Rob Zeaske, board members, agency partners, and individuals in our community who rely on SNAP benefits to make ends meet each month. The visit was inspired, in part, by a Second Harvest Heartland-Boston Consulting Group (BCG) study exploring the impact of potential federal safety net cuts on Minnesota’s emergency food system. Those findings signal that our network of food banks, food shelves and meal programs is ill-equipped to handle looming funding cuts and changes to SNAP.
“We’re all one accident away from needing the help SNAP provides,” said Cindy Booker, executive director of Sabathani Community Center in Minneapolis. Booker’s organization supported more than 42,000 food shelf visits last year and fears that cuts to SNAP will overwhelm Sabathani, a concern echoed by Community Emergency Service (CES) executive director Mike Lloyd.
CES experienced a 17 percent uptick in the number of folks turning to them for help last year. Lloyd asserted, “a 30 percent increase in demand [resulting from cuts included in the White House budget proposal] will kill us. The assistance from SNAP is supplemental but the demand is so much greater.”
Last month, the House Agriculture Committee released and marked up its version of the farm bill, which is the primary legislative vehicle funding vital farm programs and food assistance for the one in 11 Minnesotans struggling to keep enough food on the table. Smith, who serves on the Senate Agriculture Committee, provided assurances she would advocate for a farm bill that works for all Minnesotans – including folks relying on SNAP to provide enough food for themselves and their families.
Unfortunately, the House farm bill includes several changes that will make it harder for food insecure Minnesotans – children, seniors, working families and adults experiencing mental health challenges – to access crucial SNAP benefits. Furthermore, these changes will exacerbate pressures on an emergency food system already maxed out. Second Harvest Heartland opposes the House farm bill in its current form and continues advocating for a farm bill that meets the needs of Minnesota’s farm and emergency food communities.
To learn more about Minnesotans and their SNAP stories, check out a piece recently published in Pollen.