My husband and I are not wealthy, but our bills get paid on time. It hasn’t always been that way for me.

When I was a young mom, home with a toddler and a newborn, my first husband lost his job. We had no income. It was rough going. We had WIC (Women, Infant, and Children) aid, which gave us some peanut butter, cereal, and cheese. We ate a lot of grilled cheese sandwiches. We had food stamps. After more than three decades, I still recall being ridiculed and heckled by others who were in line with us, and how it was so demeaning to use these programs.

Sure, there are some people who take advantage of these kinds of programs. But we paid into the system, and, when we needed it, it was there for us. It didn’t take us long to get off these programs — only a few months. We couldn’t wait to get off. But I’m not sure what my family would have done without this help in a very dark time.

Now, I’m proud to be a volunteer with the Salem NH Farmers Market, because of the help we give to families who are struggling like mine did. For those families who qualify for the SNAP Food Stamp Program, we give double benefits. (For every $1 removed from their account, we give $2 in tokens to spend at the market for foods allowed by the program.) We also work with programs like Boys & Girls Club of Greater Salem and Saint Joseph’s Church, to give coupons to be used at the market, to supplement any assistance these families may be receiving. When I stepped in as the President in October 2017, one of the first suggestions I made was to triple the SNAP benefits for the holiday season.

Today, the SNAP program is in jeopardy. The Farm Bill is passed by Congress every 5 years; the current bill expires in September 2018. This bill covers a large number of topics, some of which is not related to Farms, including the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), the funding of which has been hotly debated in recent years.

Part of the Farm Bill provides aid to farmers. Unfortunately, much of that aid goes to farmers who own ginormous farms, grow genetically engineered crops, and already receive huge checks from our government. Very little goes to those small farmers who are just starting, and/or who are trying to meet the demand of customers, by converting their farms to grow organic foods. Small family farms are disappearing.

From InTents Newsletter, which is geared for Farmer Market managers: “The debate around the 2018 Farm Bill brought to the forefront a discussion surrounding the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP). No matter what side of the aisle you’re on, if you’re involved with food production or agriculture, you are impacted by SNAP.

“As the specifics of SNAP and other assistance programs regularly become obscured by politics, it’s important to take a moment and read up on what these programs actually do. To find out more and get to the bottom of some common myths about SNAP, read this article! ” https://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/snap-food-stamps-myths

I’m proud of what the Farmers Market does for those in our community who benefit from the SNAP program. I wish we could help more. There was a recent federal government change that impacted the way SNAP is used at farmers markets, with very little notification. We took quick action and were working on a solution, when we learned that NY’s Governor Cuomo took action to protect SNAP recipients access to farmers markets, not only in NY, but also across the country. Whew! But this “fix” will only work if SNAP funds are available.

I’m very concerned about what will happen if the Farm Bill makes changes to the SNAP program, or, as it appears could happen, if it stalls and fails to pass in Congress.

A few of the questions I’m asking myself:

  • What will happen to the families already struggling to make ends meet?
  • What will happen to school lunch programs, where some kids get the only decent meal of the day?
  • Will we see more families lose their homes, as they have to choose between rent, food or medication?
  • I’m seeing the potential for a downshifting of these costs to the State and local communities like Salem. How will we be able to help these families survive?

Congress needs to be careful to protect our middle and low-income families. And, if they fail to do so, our communities and states need to be prepared. I fear we are not.

Additional recent information about the Senate version of the Farm Bill can be found here:

  • https://www.shaheen.senate.gov/news/press/shaheen-applauds-passage-of-bipartisan-senate-farm-bill-that-will-support-new-hampshire-farmers-and-rural-communities
  • http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/economy-budget/397188-house-and-senate-farm-bills-set-contrasting-visions-for
  • https://www.epi.org/press/work-requirements-in-snap-and-medicaid-wont-increase-employment-but-they-will-harm-millions-of-americans/
  • https://blog.ucsusa.org/sarah-reinhardt/why-republican-farm-bill-negotiators-should-think-twice-about-attacks-on-snap