Compiled by Wendy Sweeter

Earlier this year, President Donald Trump released his 2018 budget that calls for a 30 percent reduction in funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) over the next 10 years.
As part of his proposal, Trump suggested using pre-packaged Harvest Boxes to be delivered to those in need. The food pantries in the region disagree with this approach.
    North Dakota
“As the only food bank in the state of North Dakota, we know the cost and logistical challenges that come with delivering food to those in need. SNAP is an efficient, effective program that serves 54,000 North Dakotans and utilizes a vibrant and safe grocery retail system, as well as outlets like farmers markets for fresh produce. It gives participants the dignity and respect to choose food that best meets their family’s dietary needs. Replacing a proven SNAP EBT system with a new, uncertain commodity plan is ill-conceived. SNAP feeds families, boosts local economies and supports ND farmers and growers. Any changes or cuts to SNAP would place a burden on the charitable sector, and unfortunately we don’t have the capacity to meet that additional need,” says Melissa Sobolik, Great Plains Food Bank director of Ending Hunger 2.0.

South Dakota
“While we understand the need for a balanced federal budget, we are also challenged with the notion that preselecting the food for families rather than allowing them to choose food for themselves is the right answer. Feeding South Dakota abandoned the ‘pre-boxed’ concept decades ago, realizing the importance of allowing families to select nutritious foods that they would eat, thus reducing potential food waste and providing the struggling families we serve with a degree of dignity,” says Matt Gassen, Feeding South Dakota CEO.

“The Harvest Boxes are a well-meaning, but totally inefficient way to share surplus food with our hungry neighbors,” says Susan E. Ogborn, president and CEO, Food Bank for the Heartland.
“The President’s proposed budget is deeply concerning and fails to acknowledge the reality that far too many Minnesotans don’t have enough food to eat,” said Second Harvest Heartland CEO Rob Zeaske. “Massive cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the elimination of the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) will overwhelm our state’s network of food banks and food shelves. We are neither equipped nor prepared to meet the increased demand expected from these callous cuts – our hunger relief community of facilities, resources and volunteers are already strained. Most importantly, the seniors and children relying on this critical food assistance will go hungry. This proposal doesn’t align with Minnesota values and it certainly doesn’t match our values at Second Harvest Heartland,” says Rob Zeaske, Second Harvest Heartland CEO.
“A federal budget reflects our values and vision for America. President Trump’s FY19 budget, released on Monday, abandons our long-held values of caring for our neighbors, helping people during hard times, and the belief that no one in this country should go hungry. Instead, the budget presents a vision in which struggling families face more and more obstacles just to get by, weakening the very programs that provide stability and opportunity in our communities.
The proposals included in the President’s budget would drastically worsen hunger and poverty in Montana. In particular, the President’s budget would take food away from millions of Americans by cutting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), a program that helps 120,000 Montanans keep food on the table. The President proposes cutting the program by $213 billion (nearly 30 percent) over ten years by undermining the program’s structure, reducing benefits for nearly every household on SNAP, and further restricting eligibility. Feeding America, our national food bank partner, estimates that these cuts would result in a loss of over 40 billion meals nationwide. The President’s budget also completely eliminates a critical nutrition program for low-income seniors, the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP, commonly known as Senior Commodities). Eliminating CSFP would mean the loss of basic food assistance for nearly 7,000 low-income seniors in Montana.
“In addition to cuts to food assistance, the budget proposes deep cuts to Medicaid, housing and other programs that provide assistance to tens of thousands of Montana households – most of whom are working for low wages, are families with children or are elderly or disabled. Cutting these essential services will inevitably result in higher rates of poverty, worsened health outcomes and more instability for vulnerable families.
“While the Montana Food Bank Network and local food pantries across the state work tirelessly to provide emergency food assistance, our resources are already stretched. SNAP has long been one of the most powerful and effective poverty-reduction programs in the country, effectively reducing hunger while supporting public health and local economies. The charitable food system cannot begin to make up the difference if public nutrition programs like SNAP and Senior Commodities are cut, or if more people are pushed into poverty through the loss of other essential services.
“Instead of providing support and opportunity, these cuts will take away food, healthcare and housing, making it even harder for families in our state to make ends meet. Members of Congress, including Sens. Daines and Tester and Rep. Gianforte have the opportunity to take a stand for Montanans by protecting SNAP and other poverty-reduction programs in the federal budget or any other legislation this year,” says Gayle Carlson, CEO, Montana Food Bank Network.

Shanna F. Harris, Wyoming Food Bank of the Rockies director, listed her concerns:
1. We don’t know what the food is that will go into the boxes.
2. Dietary issues – religion, health restrictions concern us because there is no client choice and this could lead to more food waste.
3. Food pantries and food banks may be relied on more than ever because people who are food insecure are not getting what they need.    
“The president’s fiscal year 2019 budget guts one of our state’s and nation’s most successful programs in supporting families and individuals who are weathering a life storm – food stamps, federally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). It puts politics over people and would make life harder for many Coloradans across the state. The budget proposes slashing food stamps by 30 percent. It also includes a radical restructuring of the program that would reduce benefits for the overwhelming majority of households as well as harm grocers and other retailers that provide access to food, jobs and economic activity in their communities. Other proposed changes would result in more than 4 million Americans losing benefits all together. This government overreach takes money and control away from Colorado and proposes replacing a portion of residents’ benefits with non-perishable food boxes. Not only does this require the creation of unnecessary infrastructure – a cost that could fall to Colorado – but it works on the faulty assumption that the government should be deciding what we feed our kids. Food stamps support families in building and maintaining a strong foundation for health and well-being. If such a proposal were enacted, the modest average food stamp benefit of $1.40 per meal would be further diminished. It would significantly impact the majority of those who are eligible for food stamps – children, seniors, veterans and people with disabilities. Yet, an increasing body of research demonstrates why food assistance is a smart investment that yields positive returns in the form of food and nutrition access, economic stability, health and well-being, employment, education and productivity, which benefits all of us. With deep cuts to food assistance, Medicaid, Medicare, affordable housing and community programs, the Trump administration’s budget proposal endangers the well-being of our residents and economy. Moving forward with such a proposal would lead to an increase of hunger and poverty, with the ripple effects being felt by all communities in Colorado,” says Kathy Underhill, CEO, Hunger Free Colorado.