President Lyndon Johnson declared food stamps to “be one of our most valuable weapons for the war on poverty” when he signed The Food Stamps Act of 1964. Unfortunately, that fight persists with one in 10 Minnesotans lacking enough food to feed themselves and their families. These hungry Minnesotans go to school with our kids, live down the street and work at many of the places we frequent daily.
The Trump administration’s proposal to gut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – more commonly referred to as food stamps – would harm some of the most vulnerable among us. Two-thirds of food stamp recipients in our state are children, seniors or disabled adults.
But these cuts would also have detrimental effects on our local communities where food stamp recipients utilize the program to pay for groceries and defray the cost of other critical necessities, like fuel for the family car or medication to manage chronic illnesses. This impact would be even more pronounced in our rural communities.
A 29 percent cut
Last year, Second Harvest Heartland worked with nearly 1,000 food shelves, pantries and other partner programs in 59 Minnesota and western Wisconsin counties to provide more than 80 million meals. Together with our nonprofit hunger relief partners, we’re already struggling to secure, store and distribute additional meals to meet the current demand for food assistance. And reducing federal funding for food stamps will have a direct and dire impact on Minnesota’s hunger relief system and its hungry neighbors. In fact, the president’s proposed 29 percent cut to SNAP in Minnesota would mean the elimination of more than 100 million meals in the first year alone.
I’m alarmed by the Trump administration’s budget proposal and urge my fellow Minnesotans to contact their elected officials in Washington, as our state’s hunger relief system is not prepared to meet the increased demand expected from massive cuts to food stamps. Our facilities, resources and volunteers are already strained, and if billions of dollars are eliminated for food stamps, more Minnesotans will go hungry.
Regardless of what happens, we’re going to continue to do everything we can to help feed our hungry neighbors. But the reality is clear: Cutting SNAP funding and making it more difficult for folks to access this much-needed assistance will have a significant impact on Minnesota.
Rob Zeaske is the chief executive officer of Second Harvest Heartland.
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