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Anti-hunger advocates worry about this week’s federal Farm Bill vote

Monica Sandreczki

Healthy food advocates are worried about the federal farm bill the U.S. House of Representatives plans to bring to the floor this week.

The Farm Bill comes up for renewal every five years to fund corn and soybean subsidies, forestry and horticulture programs and, the largest part, nutrition assistance. The 2014 Farm Bill was worth about $490 billion. 80 percent of that went to nutrition assistance.

This time, there’s an $8 billion cut to food stamps, also known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP.

Plus, it would increase the work requirement to receive SNAP benefits. Adults under 60 would have to work or do job training at least 20 hours a week and report their work hours every month.

“That’s just a huge bureaucratic strain on our county and state governments. It’s kind of an unfunded mandate,” said Randi Quackenbush, Advocacy & Education Manager at the Food Bank of the Southern Tier. “If there’s any slight chance if you’re not working those hours that are required that you could be sanctioned and lose your SNAP for a year. I can’t imagine the stress that would put on families.”

Currently, SNAP recipient Wendy Pursel receives about $44 a week to buy food. She has a brain injury and cannot work. Thinking about the cuts, she said, you have to laugh, otherwise you will cry.

“If you really want to kill us, kill us quicker,” said Pursel. "Don’t starve us to to death because that’s what it feels like – that they want to kill all the poor people. To make me more ill by not allowing me to eat well, it’s going to make it even more difficult for me to even try to attempt to work.”

Instead, Pursel wants Congress to increase money for SNAP and to put more money toward school lunch programs.