Below is the text of an advocacy letter sent by The Root Cause Coalition to the nine members from the Senate and 47 members from the House who comprise the Farm Bill Conference Committee.
Dear Conference Committee Member,
On behalf of The Root Cause Coalition, I am writing to express our strong support for provisions in the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 that protect and uphold the indispensable safety-net programs that seek to address food insecurity—the lack of stable, accessible, healthy, nutritious food.
The Root Cause Coalition is comprised of 56 leading health systems, hospital associations, foundations, businesses, national and community nonprofits, health insurers, academic institutions and policy centers. The Coalition’s position on the 2018 farm bill represents a confluence of expert opinion that cuts across sectors, states and services.
Ensuring access to adequate nutrition for the most vulnerable Americans is a critical bulwark against runaway health care costs. The ill effects of food insecurity are well documented. The inability to maintain a normal food-intake pattern is associated with increased rates of diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma and heart disease. In addition to these health effects, food insecurity impairs the performance of children in school and increases the likelihood of long-term behavioral and psychological problems. Despite providing modest benefits—an average of $1.40 per person per meal—the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is associated with significant improvements in food security.
While the House-passed version of the farm bill contained several important provisions—like the allocation of $350 million per year for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) food purchases, storage and distribution—it also contained several harmful changes to key safety-net programs. We voiced our opposition to the changes which would diminish enrollment in SNAP. This curtailment of a key federal anti-poverty and safety-net program would:
- Eliminate or reduce an important lifeline for food assistance to more than two million Americans.
- Exacerbate the problem of food insecurity, which accounts for roughly $77.5 billion in avoidable costs to the health care sector each year.
- Lead to 265,000 children losing free school meals.
Many of the Coalition’s members who work directly with SNAP recipients have warned that with diminished support from SNAP they will be unable to meet the needs of those in their communities who suffer from food insecurity and hunger. Millions of Americans would be at risk of becoming food insecure if those harmful provisions became law.
The Senate-passed version of the farm bill protects minimum-necessary access to safety-net services for those most in need. The bill:
- Reaffirms the value of SNAP as a vehicle for reducing food insecurity—a situation that accounts for billions in avoidable health care costs each year.
- Clarifies and consolidates SNAP work requirements, so requirements are easier to understand, implement and fairly enforce.
- Extends SNAP certification up to three years for households with only elderly (age 60+) or disabled members who do not have any earned income.
- Establishes the Harvesting Health Pilot Projects, which promotes partnerships between health care organizations, non-profit organizations, and state or local agencies to provide low-income individuals who suffer from or are at risk of developing diet-related health conditions with fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as nutrition education.
As the bill now moves to conference, the Coalition sincerely hopes that Members of the Conference Committee arrive at a compromise that builds on the Senate version and continues to protect and expand the lifelines that so many families depend on. The Coalition supports this more measured, thoughtful, bi-partisan effort towards the reauthorization of some of the most significant functions of the federal government, which guarantee access to vital anti-poverty and safety-net programs for those who need it most.
The Root Cause Coalition