Must Read: Trump plans to cut basic food assistance

By:  Anore Horton & John Sayles; VT Digger

Last week, the Trump administration announced its latest attempt to take food away from over 3 million veterans, families and older Americans in need by forcing Vermont and 42 other states to change the way they have run the SNAP program (3SquaresVT in Vermont) for over 20 years. “Broad-based categorical eligibility” affords Vermont the flexibility to enable access to critical 3SquaresVT benefits for vulnerable low-income Vermonters (including working families, children, veterans, older adults, and people with disabilities). Hunger Free Vermont and the Vermont Foodbank strongly oppose this proposal, which will increase hunger and hardship for thousands of Vermonters and millions of Americans.

For over 40 years, 3SquaresVT has been our state’s first line of defense against hunger, because it works. It provides, on average, over 70,000 Vermonters and 40 million Americans with money to spend on food in grocery stores and farmers markets each month. It is proven to reduce hunger, lift people out of poverty, and leads to positive short and long-term health, education, and employment outcomes.

We know that many families in Vermont who are working are still struggling to make ends meet; many rely on food shelves and other assistance to feed their families. This year, 1 in 4 Vermonters will visit a food shelf. This number is far greater than the number of Vermonters who are able to participate in 3SquaresVT, which highlights that these programs already don’t do enough to eliminate hunger for many working families.

Eliminating or restricting categorical eligibility will harm Vermonters, and weaken our nation’s most effective anti-hunger program. Those likely to be affected by this proposal disproportionately are working families with children, and research shows that food insecure children have higher rates of fair and poor health, higher rates of hospitalization, and delays in cognitive development, among other health issues. Ensuring that children have access to a program that is proven to reduce food insecurity and poverty is essential – we should be increasing benefits, rather than putting working families at risk of increased hunger and hardship.

This proposal is another in a long line of attempts by this administration to demonize low-income Americans and keep them from applying for programs that help them and their families get what they need to thrive. Blaming struggling families will not solve hunger in America. The real issue is that millions of Americans are struggling to make ends meet and aren’t able to access enough food to grow, learn, and stay healthy. If the Trump administration was truly concerned about food insecurity, it would be working to increase wages and improve access to housing, health care, and food assistance, instead of repeatedly proposing severe cuts to programs that support low-income Americans.

This dangerous proposal is not yet final, and there is a 60-day public comment period where individuals and organizations can have their voices heard. Together, we can fight this cruel, unjust, and unnecessary proposal and show that Vermonters believe in supporting our neighbors during times of need so that they can move out of a place of poverty.

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