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Letter to the Hon Sonny Perdue, Secretary of Agriculture and the Hon Mick Mulvaney, Director of the Office of Management and Budget - Congressman Panetta Leads 90 Lawmakers to Call on Administration to Strengthen Funding for Federal Nutrition Assistance

Dear Secretary Perdue and Director Mulvaney:

We write today to highlight serious concerns about funding cuts and policy recommendations to critical federal nutrition programs in the Trump Administration's budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2019 (FY19).

Federal nutrition programs, most notably the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), ensure that individuals and families can meet their basic nutrition requirements in a way that respects their rights as consumers to make their own decisions. The SNAP program alone provides over 40 million food-insecure individuals each month with a modest benefit for access to a healthy diet. When USDA utilizes SNAP in conjunction with other initiatives like SNAP-Ed and SNAP Employment and Training, the agency promotes improved nutritional intake for millions of Americans and provides opportunities for future career success.

These benefits provided by SNAP are well-known, so we are concerned about various recommendations to dramatically change the program within the FY19 budget proposal. Specifically, the FY19 budget calls for upwards of $210 billion in cuts over a 10-year timeframe, equal to a 30% reduction to the entire program. Cuts of this magnitude would weaken the ability of the federal government to provide adequate nutrition assistance to working families, children, veterans, senior citizens, individuals with disabilities, and other vulnerable adults across this country. Calls to restrict program eligibility or enforce even more stringent work requirements without robust investments in employment and training resources will force recipients out of the program. Doing so will only increase the prevalence of hunger and place strain on local food banks.

The proposed SNAP cuts in the FY19 budget proposal will do more than increase the number of hungry Americans. Rising levels of food insecurity are directly correlated with worse outcomes for maternal and child health, reduced educational achievement, and increases in Medicare hospital readmissions. The impacts of these cuts will be felt far beyond the kitchen table. The cuts we make to the programs that feed hungry Americans today will put greater strain on health, education, and other federal expenditures in the future.

Additionally, we cannot support the proposal to provide SNAP recipients a "Harvest Box" of nonperishable pantry items in substitution of their current benefit. Such a dramatic restructuring of SNAP would strip families and individuals of full control over their diet. The one-size-fits all approach to SNAP is an affront to consumer choice and the ability of recipients to determine what is best for themselves and their families. Further, this approach deprives local businesses and farmers markets of valuable sales because SNAP recipients will have significantly reduced purchasing power. We are also concerned that the Administration has not considered critical factors such as shipping cost and logistics, food allergies, or religious observances. This policy shift would undermine USDA's efforts to promote a well-balanced, nutritious diet by limiting access to animal protein, a variety of dairy products, and fresh fruits and vegetables.

We fully support Secretary Perdue's motto for USDA to "do right, and feed everyone." We want to work with you to ensure that we can accomplish this goal. SNAP is the most effective tool we have to alleviate hunger and provide a pathway to prosperity for those in need of assistance, and we cannot support cuts to SNAP or structural changes to the program that will undermine our ability to help those in need. We stand ready to work with you to strengthen SNAP and our ability to address hunger in our communities.


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