U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp today joined North Dakota families as they participated in a federal nutrition assistance education class, authorized by the Farm Bill, that provides guidance to low-income families about how to purchase and prepare meals in an affordable, healthy way.
The class participants learned about healthy options at the grocery store and discussed ways to stretch the family dollar for maximum nutrition quality. They then used the ingredients, with instruction from North Dakota State University Extension Service's Family Nutrition Program, to prepare a healthy meal.
Nutrition programs face steep cuts in the House of Representatives. This would not only harm struggling families, but it also threatens the passage of a long-term Farm Bill. Congress needs to pass a Farm Bill by September 30 to avoid the expiration of essential agriculture and nutrition programs, and provide North Dakota's agriculture producers with the certainty they need to do their jobs.
"This program is helping families learn about how to cook affordable, healthier meals for their kids, offering a crucial lifeline so North Dakota's struggling children don't go hungry," said Heitkamp, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. "It not only helps these families, but it also does great things for our communities and reduces health care costs in the long run by encouraging healthier lifestyles. There are many reasons why we need to pass a comprehensive Farm Bill, and making sure families and kids are able to get the nutrition assistance they absolutely need is a crucial one. Sadly, the House is jeopardizing the livelihood of North Dakota's farmers, ranchers, and low-income families. That isn't leadership. I will continue to fight for a long-term Farm Bill that helps puts our agriculture industry and workers on the right path forward."
On June 10, Heitkamp helped the Senate pass an overwhelmingly bipartisan Farm Bill that reduces the federal deficit by more than $23 billion. The bill reforms the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) -- which supports nutrition assistance programs -- by closing loopholes, cracking down on abuse, and improving program integrity.
In July, the House of Representatives passed a Farm Bill that completely removed the nutrition assistance provisions, putting low-income families across North Dakota and the country at risk. Heitkamp believes that doing this has threatened the successful urban-rural coalition that is needed to pass a Farm Bill. As Heitkamp often points out, an overwhelming majority of House members do not have a significant agriculture sectors in their districts. While they all take advantage of the food produced in other areas of the country, these members often don't fully understand the importance of agriculture production because their constituents are not farmers.