90 Hunger and Nutrition Organizations Urge Congress to Protect Nutrition Programs in the Upcoming Farm Bill

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Over 90 national and regional hunger relief, public health, faith-based and other advocacy organizations sent a letter to Congress today urging the Senate and House Agriculture Committees to strengthen and protect nutrition programs in the 2012 Farm Bill. The letter is being sent as the Senate Agriculture Committee is expected to begin marking up a Farm Bill after the congressional Easter recess.

"With unemployment still stuck over eight percent nationally and millions of families struggling to put food on the table, it is inconceivable that Congress would make cuts to nutrition programs in the Farm Bill," said David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World. "The need for food assistance has never been greater."

Last year, the Senate and House Agriculture Committees recommended $4.2 billion in nutrition cuts to the Super Committee as part of the deficit reduction process. The House budget resolution passed last month would go far deeper, making $133.5 billionin cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the largest federal nutrition program, formerly called food stamps.

"Cutting Farm Bill nutrition programs would devastate efforts to protect against hunger and improve nutrition, particularly among our nation's children, seniors and low-income families," said Matthew Marsom, vice president for public health policy and advocacy at the Public Health Institute. "Congress must safeguard and strengthen food assistance programs in the Farm Bill, including vital programs that promote healthy eating and increase access to healthy foods such as SNAP nutrition education (SNAP-Ed) and the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program."

In recognition of the elevated need for food assistance and the consequences of hunger and poor nutrition, a diverse coalition of stakeholders is urging Congress to protect and strengthen Farm Bill nutrition programs. Their recommendations are guided by three shared principles: 1) protect against hunger; 2) improve nutrition and health outcomes among vulnerable populations; and 3) strengthen community-based initiatives that link farmers with consumers and increase access to healthy food.

"We recognize the challenge of drafting a Farm Bill in this budget environment, but nutrition programs help our most vulnerable citizens meet their most basic need – food," said Vicki Escarra, president and CEO of Feeding America. "Congress should protect and strengthen these programs, not cut them. Eighty four percent of SNAP benefits go to households with a child, senior or disabled person, and The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) helps food banks, churches and other charities provide meals and groceries to struggling families in their communities."

The coalition's principles guide a set of specific recommendations for SNAP, TEFAP and other Farm Bill nutrition programs. The text of the letter and list of endorsing organizations follows.

For more information about the Public Health Institute, go to: phi.org.

For more information about Bread for the World, go to: bread.org.