John Johnson, program director for domestic policy, ELCA Advocacy; Nick Bates, director of Hunger Network in Ohio; and Sr. Dottie Almoney talk about the Farm Bill: why we have to care and what we can do.

How will you get food for lunch? For 41 million Americans this is a question they need to face daily.

In a recent conversation with the Deaconess Community, John Johnson, program director for domestic policy, ELCA Advocacy, Nick Bates Director of Hunger Network in Ohio (a mission grant recipient), and Deaconess Community member Sr. Dottie Almoney, director of education and outreach, St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, Lancaster, PA, spoke about the Farm Bill.

John Johnson said that for years, the federal government has supplied food aid to those who are in need through bipartisan legislation.

Once called Food Stamps, now called SNAP benefits, these benefits are authorized through the Farm Bill.

Under the current administration, the House leadership has purposed reducing the benefits and increasing the work requirements to receive this food aid.

Note: Last Thursday, the Senate passed its version of the Farm Bill. The House and Senate bills will now go to a conference committee to be reconciled. 

The House’s proposed cuts would drastically reduce food aid to every person who receives it. This is because, state, local and non-profit hunger-relief programs rely on SNAP.

  • John Johnson: “Ninety-five percent of all food aid comes from the government. The other five percent comes from nonprofits.”
  • Nick Bates: “SNAP is the bedrock program for all anti-hunger initiatives throughout all the levels [of hunger relief]. There is absolutely no way our congregations and our local food pantries can supplant the impact that SNAP makes.”
  • Sr. Dottie Almoney, with current SNAP benefits: “We have people coming in all the time who say, ‘ it is either I get my medication or I get food.’”

What can you do? There most effective way to help is by contacting your legislators. “The one thing that elected officials are afraid of is losing an election,” John Johnson said. The only way to pressure the House to abandon their cuts is to let them know that voters oppose them.

  • John Johnson: “Don’t ever think that calling your member of Congress or senator doesn’t make a difference. It does.”
  • Nick Bates: “If you do nothing, nothing is going to happen … I like to ask, what is that next step? It could be calling or getting a bunch of people to tweet at the same time.”
  • Sr. Dottie Almoney: “I take it as a badge of honor to be a thorn in the side of my legislator. If you don’t want to call, get people to sign a petition and send it in.”

Click here to watch the entire conversation, “Who is not our neighbor.”