The 2013 Farm Bill is now in conference committee (a meeting between the US House and the US Senate to reconcile differences between the two bills that emerged, one from each chamber). At stake are food stamps. The House version of the bill has a 20 billion dollar cut. The Senate bill has a 4 Billion dollar cut. What does this mean?
1 out of 6 Americans have inadequate access to food. 21% of households with children have what is now called food insecurity. Over 50 million Americans have difficulty keeping food on the table. 1 in 5 children are at risk for hunger; for Latinos and African American children it is 1 out of every 3.
Take a look at Jennifer Ensign’s post on her blog Medical Margins.
Could you live on $4.20 a day? Want to take the challenge and try? Then will you let the media in your town and your congress people know your experience? Below is a sample letter and ideas for implementing. We suggest you send it to a Senator or Congressperson on the committee, challenging them to live on the food stamp allotment until the bill is out of conference. Then, if you take the challenge, share your experience with the press, blogs, and your congresswomen and men. Below the sample letter is a list of all on the conference committee. The time to act is now; they have been in conference since 10/30/13.
To: Representative (or Senator)…
Fr: your name
Re; The Farm Bill Conference
November 23, 2013
Dear Representative (or Senator) fill in name
We are writing to you in your role as (_________) state’s conferee on the House-Senate Farm Bill Conference. As individuals from (_________________), we are gravely concerned by the cuts already taken – and being considered – in food stamp benefits. We assume you want to do
what is best for your constituents, and thus might welcome a first-hand understanding of your actions.
This letter has two parts.
(1) We are calling on you and your conferees on the Farm Bill to limit your spending on food to the current Food Stamp allotment for an individual for the duration of the Conference Committee. We know that you may have taken a one-week “food stamp challenge;” we believe it is particularly appropriate that all of the Conferees “take the challenge” for the duration while deciding whether to restore, or further cut, food stamp benefits. We know this will be difficult, given an average benefit for one person in Washington State is just $4.20/day. It is not only not easy, it can be harmful – e.g., to people in physically-demanding jobs, while pregnant or recovering from surgery or illness, or dealing with many of life’s challenges.
(2) At the same time, we will be limiting our own food spending to that same amount. To aid your deliberations, we will be reporting regularly on the results to your office, and to others throughout our communities.
Indeed, some those who write you may already rely on SNAP and thus live with the reality of food insecurity. I hope you also hear their stories. As you and your colleagues debate whether or not to make cuts to a program which is necessary for many to get by, we seek to remind you there are people behind the numbers. In that spirit, we wish to share our stories with you and will do so.
Those of us who are not limited to a food stamp allotment believe that food security is a right and no person should be denied access to adequate food and proper nutrition. We wish to stand in solidarity with those who face food insecurity and who will be deeply affected by the actions of you and your colleagues.
Some people will feel they cannot participate (e.g., if it would endanger their health or the health of their families). In those cases, we will share their stories with you.
We look forward to working with you on this issue.
Why do this: We believe it would help committee members in the understanding of food insecurity if they were to have even a limited experience in what it is like to have no more than $4.20/person/day (the average benefit in WA) to spend for food.
And, since we realize it may be difficult for a sitting member of Congress to do this, we are asking others to also do this – for as long as the Farm Bill Conference meets. By signing this letter, you will be agreeing to do the following:
1) Confine your food consumption to what you can purchase on $4.20/person/day.
2) Send regular reports to your Senator’s or Representative’s office, telling her how it feels, and whether it is easy or hard. E.g., whether it affects energy levels; whether you can afford healthful food; how your attitudes are affected.
3) Send regular reports to others: social media, traditional media, colleagues, neighbors, family, friends.
4) If you believe it would be harmful to you or your family to limit food spending so drastically (e.g., if you are diabetic or pregnant or recovering from an illness or surgery), we ask that you send that information to the Representative’s office. (Food stamp recipients are not given higher amounts if they hold physically demanding jobs, or have special health conditions.)
If this sounds like something you are willing to do (or at least try), please copy this letter, sign it, and send it to the appropriate person for your state or to the chair of the committee. And then, begin the pledge.
Who is on the committee:
The Senate conferees include:
- Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee
- Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
- Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA)
- Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)
- Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
- Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
- Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO)
- Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS), Ranking Member of the Senate Agriculture Committee
- Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS)
- Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)
- Sen. John Boozman (R-AR)
- Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND)
The House conferees include:
House Committee on Agriculture conferees:
- Rep. Frank D. Lucas (R-OK), Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee
- Rep. Steve King (R-IA)
- Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-TX)
- Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL)
- Rep. K. Michael Conaway (R-TX)
- Rep. Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (R-PA)
- Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA)
- Rep. Rick Crawford (R-AR)
- Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL)
- Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD)
- Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA)
- Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL)
- Rep. Steve Southerland (R-FL)
House Foreign Affairs Committee conferees:
- Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman
- Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA)
House Ways & Means Committee conferees:
- Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI), Chairman
- Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX)
House Committee on Agriculture conferees:
- Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN), Ranking Member of House Agriculture Committee
- Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-NC)
- Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA)
- Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN)
- Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR)
- Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA)
- Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA)
- Rep. Gloria Negrete McLeod (D-CA)
- Rep. Filemon Vela (D-TX)