Do Right and Feed Everyone

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, this is not a political blog. However, it gets really hard to talk about food, agriculture and nutrition without getting into food, agriculture and nutrition policy. So, here it is, another blog post I keep trying to write and stepping back because I do not want to sound like a political radical.

A little back ground on the issue I am pondering might help here. Every five-ish years the federal government here in the USofA writes a big law that describes how the government will govern agriculture and the food supply. This is known as the Farm Bill.  Topics in the bill include setting prices on commodity crops, farmland conservation measures, disaster aid for farmers, and supplemental nutrition programs. The Congressional Research Service published a paper in 2017 by Renée Johnson and Jim Monke that outlines the Farm Bill in preparation for the 2018 version.  It is a bit long, but worth a glance if you want more background on this important piece of legislation.

The part of the Farm Bill I am most concerned about right now is the supplemental food program part. Why?  (WARNING- this is where my opinion takes over and gets rant-ish. )The executive branch of the federal government thinks it would be a grand idea to replace Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits with boxed commodity foods. A HUGE cut to funding the program has also been proposed.  This is bad. First of all, there has been no mention of how such boxes of food will be distributed.  Nor has it been posited how people with cultural, religious, or extraordinary medical dietary needs will be addressed. Nor has the Twittrerverse rung with an explanation of how citizens with insecure addresses will receive their boxes.

I’m not saying our nutritional safety net is perfect. Any system can be improved.  However, cutting the budget on a program that works is a really stupid idea.  In 2011 Rattcliffe, et al published a study in The American Journal  of Agricultural Economics showing that receiving supplemental food benefits decreased the chance a family would be food insecure (in other words unable to afford adequate food) by 30%.

One bright side: there are parts of the federal government that don’t suck. The USDA is all about changing the Farm Bill, and supplemental nutrition programs, for the better. Check out the Farm Bill 2018 & Legislative Principles they have prepared. (Yes, I totally stole the quote on the first page from Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue as the title for this post!) I especially took note of the first and last items under the heading “Food, Nutrition & Consumer Services” on page 2-

  • Harness America’s agricultural abundance to support nutrition assistance for those truly in need
  • Support nutrition policies and programs that are science based and data driven with clear and measurable outcomes for policies and programs.

I couldn’t have said it any better myself. We need evidence based policy to get enough to everyone who is lacking. We do not need partisan posturing. We do not need to punish the many truly needy because a few are gaming the system. We need to feed America. Hungry people have a hard time being pretty good, never mind being great. I am quite heartened to know that the USDA will inform Congress of the importance of nutrition programs during the bill writing process.

What can you, a simple private citizen and DIYeter do to make sure your fellow citizens have access to food? Call your congress person and/or representative. Also, you can call the people on the Nutrition Subcommittee of the House Committee on Agriculture   and also the Senate Agriculture Committee Subcommittee of Nutrition, Agricultural Research and Specialty Crops.

They are the one’s writing the bill. Tell them what you think. Remember, we are America.

I get it, there is a lot of stuff going on that we should be worried about in the USofA. We all have busy lives. Personally, I hate calling people- evidently phone anxiety is a real thing. The possibility ensuring nobody in the United States of America goes hungry is important enough for me to be uncomfortable for a few minutes, though. I hope you will also make a few minutes in your life to contact the people who are legislating this issue.

Thank you for reading. I look forward to open and respectful discussion in the comments section.