Why the Farm Bill Could Significantly Increase Hunger – and How You Can Help

Special Guest Blog Post By: Cynthia McCown

Cynthia McCown is Senior Director of Programs & Services for Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties. She has been monitoring progress on important federal legislation affecting low-income, food insecure households – The Farm Bill. “We  are very concerned about the proposed cuts to food assistance and the fact that we do not have the resources to make up the losses,” Said Cindy.  In this guest blog, Cindy explains what has happened with the bill so far and how you can help us advocate for families who could lose access to food.


The Farm Bill is a piece of federal legislation that guides and authorizes funding for most farm and food policies. Two vital pieces of this legislation that concern us at Second Harvest Food Bank are funding for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs (SNAP, or “food stamps,” which is known as CalFresh in California) and The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP).  In Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties:

  • SNAP provides close to 100 million meals to low-income households (Second Harvest Food Bank 2011 Hunger Index)

  • TEFAP provided over 4 million pounds of nutritionally dense foods.

Once every five years, Congress renews the Farm Bill through the reauthorization process. Passed in 2008, the latest farm bill expired in 2012 but was partially extended on January 1, 2013. This bill is now making its way through the House and Senate. Both the Senate and House Agriculture Committees have passed their bills and they will now go to the House and Senate floors for debate.

Senate Update and Contact Information

Last week, the Senate took up consideration of the Farm Bill (S. 954) and reviewed a series of amendments. The Senate bill includes $4.1 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program over 10 years, and would cause 400,000 households to see their SNAP benefits cut by an average of $90 per month.

The Senate rejected a number of amendments before the Memorial Day recess. One that was supported by many hunger advocates was the Gillibrand Amendment to restore the $4.1 billion in cuts to SNAP. Unfortunately, this was defeated 26 to 70, with both California Senators Feinstein and Boxer voting “no.” Many amendments to cut SNAP remain to be considered and debate on the bill will resume on June 3.

Senators have indicated that they must hear from more of their constituents about their support for anti-hunger programs. Use this link to tell our Senators you support SNAP and TEFAP!

House Update and Contact Information

The House version of the Farm Bill (H.R. 1947) includes $20.5 billion in cuts to SNAP over 10 years. It is estimated that this bill would cause 2 million individuals to lose their SNAP benefits and 280,000 children would lose access to free school meals. Additionally, 850,000 low-income households would see their SNAP benefits cut by an average of $90 per month.

Representative James McGovern of Massachusetts has offered an amendment to restore the $21 billion in cuts to SNAP. There is a resolution being circulated, H.R. 90, expressing opposition to cuts to SNAP. Locally, Representatives Anna Eshoo and Zoe Lofgren have signed on as co-signers of the resolution.

With the date of the House vote unknown, please take a minute to call or email your Member of Congress and ask them to:

  • Co-sponsor Rep. McGovern’s amendment to restore the SNAP cuts.
  • Support Rep. McGovern’s amendment when it comes up to a vote on the House floor.
  • Oppose any damaging amendments to SNAP.
  • Co-sponsor H.R. 90.

Charities Cannot Make Up the Difference

Nonprofit organizations such as Second Harvest Food Bank cannot make up the difference in the proposed cuts. It is imperative to preserve and invest in these programs. Follow this link to learn more about SNAP and other anti-hunger programs and let your representatives know you care about hungry families in our community.

Sources:  California Association of Food Banks, SHFB Hunger Index, Coalition on Human Needs

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