As the 126th state legislature begins its work and Congress tackles our nation’s fiscal challenges, the Food Bank is keeping its eye on a number of policy issues both here in Maine and down in Washington, D.C.
We recently testified at the State House in front of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee and the Health and Human Services Committee regarding the changes to General Assistance proposed in the Supplemental Budget. While we fully understand that difficult choices must be made in order to balance the budget, we wanted to share with the committees the affect that the changes would have on local food pantries across the state.
Food pantries throughout Maine often deal with significant challenges including transportation, funding, volunteer support, and the constant work of simply making sure that they have enough food on the shelves. If General Assistance funding runs dry, these challenges will become even more acute.
Regarding national policy, we are keeping our eye on a number of issues – Congress still appears to be far from an agreement that would prevent the sequester, which is a package of automatic cuts that is scheduled to go into effect March 1. Federal anti-hunger programs, including The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) and Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), will experience cuts should the sequester happen as planned.
We are also looking ahead to the Farm Bill reauthorization, which is likely to be debated this summer. The Farm Bill is the legislation that contains federal anti-hunger programs, including SNAP (food stamps) and it needs to be reauthorized every 5 years. The current Farm Bill was set to expire in September 2012, but instead of passing a new bill, Congress instead chose to reauthorize the old bill for an additional year.
The Food Bank is also excited to announce that we will be in attendance at the National Anti-hunger Policy Conference in Washington, D.C. in early March. This will be an excellent opportunity to learn about national and state-based hunger relief efforts and network with other anti-hunger advocates from across the country!