September is Hunger Action Month and Montanans are joining together to help fight hunger in our communities. We hope that many of you will join us – whether by donating food, volunteering with us at the Flathead Food Bank or your local pantry, or helping to raise awareness about issue of hunger in our state.
As we work together to combat hunger, we also need the support of our elected officials in D.C. One of our nation’s most powerful tools in the fight against hunger is at risk of severe cuts in the upcoming federal budget.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps, helps over 120,000 Montanans keep food on their tables. Two-thirds of them are in families with children and we know that when kids have enough to eat, they are healthier, do better in school, and experience health benefits that last a lifetime.
Average SNAP benefits are only $1.30 per person per meal in Montana, but it doesn’t take much to make a big difference. Even that minimal amount keeps 8 million Americans from falling into poverty. Without SNAP, Flathead Food Bank and the other pantries across our state would be overwhelmed and could not make up the difference.
Despite the crucial role that SNAP plays for families, seniors, and individuals in our state, the current House budget proposal includes $150 billion in cuts to SNAP over the next 10 years. Families in rural states like Montana have the most to lose if these cuts go through. Households in rural areas are more likely to participate in the program than those in more urban areas, and the program provides a critical support to rural economies, bringing $166 million into Montana every year, creating jobs and opportunity for all of us.
As a food bank, we know just how much these cuts will cost families in our community. Every day, I meet people who work hard at low-wage jobs and still earn too little to make ends meet. I see neighbors who have recently lost their jobs because they had to take care of a sick child or parent, or because they became injured or ill. I meet people with disabilities who need a little extra help in order to remain vital contributors to their families and our community, and seniors struggling to get by on Social Security checks that don’t leave enough extra for food.
Our staff and volunteers work hard to make a difference in this community. We know you do too. And we can’t do it alone. We need our elected officials to hold up their end of the bargain by supporting programs like SNAP.
Hunger Action Month is a time to speak out about hunger and lend a helping hand to those who don’t always know where their next meal will come from. This year, it also means holding our elected officials accountable. Please join us in asking Sens. Steve Daines and Jon Tester, and Rep. Greg Gianforte to strongly oppose any federal budget that takes away food from our neighbors.
Lori Botkin is executive director of the Flathead Food Bank.