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Letter: Cuts to SNAP would increase strain on local food bank resources

For over 34 years, the Great Plains Food Bank has been leading the way in hunger relief; ensuring that surplus food gets into the hands of our neighbors in need. Last year, we served nearly 94,000 people from North Dakota and Clay County who struggled to feed their families.

We know that ending hunger will take more than our Food Bank alone, it takes public and private partnerships, nonprofits, businesses and the government standing together. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is our nation’s largest hunger relief program. It is built on deep and long-standing bipartisan support – rooted in the prevailing notion that nobody in our nation should go hungry. SNAP helps struggling families put food on the table.

One in 14 North Dakotans is on SNAP. Two thirds of them live in households with children, seniors and disabled individuals. The average SNAP benefit amount is just $1.34 per meal.

By giving families the ability to purchase food locally, SNAP also provides an important economic boost to rural and urban communities. In 2016 alone, SNAP households spent roughly $79 million in stores throughout North Dakota, generating economic activity in their local communities.

In June, the Great Plains Food Bank delivered a letter, signed by 472 individuals and 96 organizations, asking our Congressional delegation to support SNAP in light of the $193 billion cut proposed in the president’s budget. While we understand the president’s budget won’t pass as presented, we do want to ensure SNAP is protected from drastic changes and cuts. Any cuts to a family’s SNAP benefits will result in an increased demand on the Great Plains Food Bank and local food pantries. Our charitable food network in North Dakota is strong, but we do not have the capacity of filling the gap that could be left if SNAP spending is dramatically reduced.

As Congress works on the federal budget and the 2018 Farm Bill, we ask Sens. Heidi Heitkamp John Hoeven and Rep. Kevin Cramer to appreciate the importance of SNAP to our communities and our state. We stand ready to work with you to strengthen and protect SNAP.

Together, we will end hunger.

This letter was written on behalf of Great Plains Food Bank CEO Steve Sellent and board members Aaron Becher, Stacey Belka, Keith Gillshammer, Jessica Haak Edland, Nancy Johnson, Sen. Richard Marcellais, David Maring, Jenni Monson, Diane Nelson, Robin Nelson, Kathy Schneider and Marti Sunderlin