Op/Ed

Letter to the editor: Federal cuts to food benefits create local problems

As the Hunger Council of Addison County heads into the new year, there is much to reflect on from 2019. We have seen over the past year concerted efforts to jeopardize 3SquaresVT (also known as SNAP nationally and formerly as food stamps).This has come through three separate proposed rule changes by the federal administration. Most recently, one of these proposals was finalized by the USDA, and is slated to go into effect on April 1, 2020; this rule aims to cut benefits for people without dependents who face barriers to employment. The Hunger Council of Addison County would like to voice our opposition to the USDA and administration’s implementation of this rule change.
First and foremost we want to make sure everyone in our community knows that nothing regarding 3SquaresVT benefits or the ability to apply for benefits has changed. In an age of instant media, messages can get mixed and we want to ensure those who do and could benefit from this program that they are still able to do so.
Vermonters already face many barriers when it comes to food access, and 3SquaresVT is the first line of defense in combating food insecurity in our state and in our county. Around 67,000 Vermonters currently receive 3SquaresVT benefits, and rule changes like these jeopardize access for many members of our community. Nationally, this rule change would cut benefits to 700,000 Americans and reduce the national SNAP budget by $15 billion over a decade.
These cuts have far-reaching impacts, because cutting Vermonters from this program not only affects those individuals losing their benefits, but also represents a significant decrease in the available food dollars circulating in our local economy. This negatively impacts local farmers, food producers, and retailers.
The Administration asserts that 3SquaresVT is a crutch that low-income individuals lean on, and as such does nothing to improve their economic situation. This is simply not the case. The barriers that prevent Vermonters from breaking out of the cycle of poverty are too multifaceted to suddenly disappear by removing what little safety net they have. Withdrawing that support only exacerbates their need for emergency food assistance from local food shelves and food banks. Nationally, it is estimated that for every meal provided by a local food shelf, 3SquaresVT provides 12. Our Vermont charitable food system is already stretched and cannot adequately adjust to the increased need that would occur from these cuts to 3SquaresVT.
The Hunger Council of Addison County opposes for all the reasons listed above this finalized rule change. We encourage members of the Addison County community to be aware and learn more about the harmful impact of this rule change and others will have on our neighbors as the federal administration continues its systematic efforts to take funding from this essential program.
Hunger Free Vermont, as well as the Hunger Council of Addison County, are always available to answer any questions or concerns community members may have and we hope others will join our efforts to protect Vermonters’ access to food.
Lily Bradburn and Emily Landenberger
Co-Chairs of the Hunger Council of Addison County
Middlebury

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