BY JOYCE ROTHERMEL
Those who gathered for the annual SW PA Bread Team Workshop on April 15 heard from presenters Margaret Tran, regional organizer for Bread for the World, and Dennis McManus, Government Relations Director of the Gr. Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. The focus of their critical messages was on the reauthorization of the Farm Bill, the federal 2019 budget and renewal of the Global Food Security Act.
The U.S. Farm Bill not only sets most U.S. agriculture policies, but also authorizes both federal nutrition assistance programs and humanitarian relief for hunger emergencies abroad. This wide scope makes the Farm Bill vital not only to farmers, but to other residents of rural areas, people throughout the U.S. who do not have enough money for food, and countries where many people struggle with malnutrition and hunger. The major nutrition component is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
According to Bread for the World, “The Farm Bill can help put the United States on track to end food insecurity and hunger in our country and save millions of lives overseas. To do so, it must be designed with strong and resilient food systems and good nutrition as its top priorities.”
World hunger is now again on the rise after a period of decline. 815 million people suffer from hunger worldwide, and one in eight people are food insecure right here at home, including children, people with disabilities and the elderly.
Dennis McManus told us that the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (HR 2) was introduced in the House of Representatives in April and it is not the bill that anti-hunger advocates had been hoping for. He noted that the work requirements for SNAP recipients included in the bill make it more of a workforce development bill than a food security safety net one.
Newly sworn in Rep. Conor Lamb from the current 18th congressional district addressed the workshop attendees and expressed his dissatisfaction with the proposed bill. He says that his colleagues will work to amend it before it comes to the floor of the House for a vote. He believes there will be a much more bi-partisan approach to the reauthorization effort in the Senate. The current Farm Bill expires September 30.
Members of the SW PA Bread Team will be visiting district offices between now and the national Bread Lobby days, June 11-12 in Washington, DC, to discuss our concerns about the budget considerations for 2019, the Farm Bill reauthorization and the renewal of the Global Food Security Act, also due to expire Sept. 30. The first of the district meetings will be with Elizabeth Fishback, regional director for Senator Casey on Monday, May 7 at 10 AM at the SW Bread Team meeting at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.
For more information, to participate in district meetings, and to register for Lobby Day in Washington, DC, call Myra Mann at 412-882-6252 or me at 412-780-5118. Further information is available at http://www.bread.org
If time does not permit lobbying in person, voters are encouraged to express your concerns through personal letters, emails, and phone calls to Congress. To find updated sample letters on these very important issues, go to http://www.bread. org/activist
Joyce Rothermel serves as Co-Chair along with Myra Mann of the SW PA Bread for the World Team.