As Christian pastors ministering in Wichita, we know that scripture and tradition call us to protect and care for the hungry. We believe it is a moral duty as individuals, as faith communities, and as a society, to ensure this most basic need is satisfied.
Even in a nation with so many blessings, there are more than 40 million men, women, and children struggling to put food on the table. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is our most effective means of ensuring that our people do not go hungry. SNAP is authorized through the Farm Bill, which Congress is currently negotiating prior to its September 2018 expiration. Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts, the Chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, has the ultimate power to ensure negotiations stay strong, bipartisan, and provide for Kansans in need.
In 2016 in an average month, SNAP benefits reached 112,825 Kansas households, ensuring that 250,000 people could eat. More than 75 percent of Kansas SNAP participants are families with children. In Kansas’ rural and metro areas, SNAP helped 1 in 11 households afford healthy, nutritious meals. In small-town Kansas, 1 in 9 households utilized SNAP to ensure an adequate diet. Over 80 percent of SNAP recipients in Kansas have at least one working household member and are using food assistance to help them make ends meet.
While charitable organizations play a vital role in addressing hunger, the overwhelming majority of food assistance in this country (19 of every 20 bags of groceries) has historically come from — and must continue to come from — federal programs like SNAP.
Sadly, the Farm Bill produced by the House of Representatives demonstrates a breakdown of what was a historically bipartisan process. The partisan bill includes misguided changes that would undermine SNAP as the nation’s most effective anti-hunger, anti-poverty program. The bill failed on the House floor, but will likely be brought up for another vote soon.
The Senate must now create a Farm Bill that does not impose cuts to nutritional benefits or add additional barriers. Roberts has a reliable partner in Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.): together they negotiated the 2014 Farm Bill, which made responsible, bipartisan reforms to streamline more than 100 programs and save taxpayers billions more than expected.
It is our hope that Roberts understands the economic importance of getting a Farm Bill passed, as well as the political importance of passing a sustainable bill.
The Senate must produce a Farm Bill that protects nutrition assistance benefits and ensures access to SNAP for all those at risk of going hungry.
Rev. Dr. Robin McGonigle is senior minister and Rev. Paul Ellis Jackson is associate minister at University Congregational Church in Wichita.