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Indiana Food Programs Speak Up About Farm Bill, Now in Play

Food banks say making SNAP benefits harder to get could increase demand at food pantries. (American Heart Association)
Food banks say making SNAP benefits harder to get could increase demand at food pantries. (American Heart Association)
September 13, 2018

INDIANAPOLIS – A U.S. House and Senate conference committee is finalizing a huge farm bill. And state and national hunger groups want folks to speak up about how the competing bills handle food programs.

Emily Weikert Bryant, executive director of the group Feeding Indiana's Hungry, says the House version of the bill includes more funding for a program providing commodities to food banks, which she likes.

But she says it also adds unnecessary work reporting requirements to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). She says in Indiana, that's just adding paperwork for folks who have jobs or would if they could.

"Most of them, someone in that household has been working or is trying to work,” she points out. “And about half of the individuals that are enrolled in SNAP are children or seniors or someone with a disability. Requiring additional hoops and red tape will result in many people being kicked off the program."

Supporters of the tougher work rules say they would weed out people who are just being lazy. The Senate version does not have those provisions.

Some of the sponsors of the House version say SNAP is a form of welfare, and many of the people getting it are cheating or selling their benefits.

But Bryant points out SNAP benefits come in the form of a debit card designed only to be used by the folks who qualify at food stores and farmers' markets, to buy a limited set of items.

"It's difficult, not impossible but difficult, to really defraud the system,” she points out. “It's not cash. It's not something they're saving up. It's something that when they receive the benefits they're using it to buy food for their families."

The House/Senate conference committee is meeting now, aiming to finish the work before the farm bill expires at the end of the month.

Bryant says if folks want to voice their opinion to the members of Congress, they can call 888-398-8702.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - IN