The Farm Bill re-authorization process has officially kicked off in Congress. Now is a good time to get caught up! This is one of a 4-part blog series in which we will highlight some of the programs that are important to our regional food system and how they should be treated in the 2018 Farm Bill.
Farm Bill nutrition programs strengthen local economies while helping hungry people purchase healthy fresh food. They put healthy food within reach for millions of struggling Americans, stabilize demand and create jobs, making them highly effective economic development.
That’s why the new Farm Bill must continue funding programs like Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive, Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program, and Women, Infants & Children Farmers Market Nutrition Program.
When these nutrition programs are paired with local food they generate greater economic activity than conventional foods. For example, a FINI grant has allowed Double Up Food Bucks to help SNAP recipients in our area buy more fresh local food. The program has injected hundreds of thousands of dollars into bi-state farmers markets and grocery stores since 2015.
Meanwhile, we also need to defend SNAP against funding cuts and structural attacks. Changes proposed in the House Agriculture Committee’s draft Farm Bill would put more hungry Americans in line at food pantries instead of at grocery stores. They would also harm local farmers, grocers and the communities they serve, including our own.
Pantries struggle to meet current demand. Feeding America pantries provide just one meal for every twelve SNAP can provide.
Grocers are also struggling. Kansas Rural Grocery Initiative reports that about 24 stores have closed in the last decade. This shows just how vulnerable grocers are to changes in consumer buying power. Less money for buying food will hurt our communities.
SNAP infuses vital funds into local economies, supporting healthy communities. Each year, $1.6 billion of SNAP benefits flow through Kansas and Missouri. Every $1 of SNAP benefits generates $1.79 in economic activity, which means true annual impact in our region exceeds $2.9 billion.
The Greater Kansas City Food Policy Coalition believes the 2018 Farm Bill should support thriving communities by: