On Saturday, February 24th, the Food Bank’s Policy and Advocacy team – Becky Gershon and Diana Jensen – boarded a plane for Washington, D.C. to attend the annual National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference and Lobby Day. This conference, hosted every year by Feeding America and the Food Research and Action Center, is an opportunity to connect with hunger advocates from around the county.
The focus this year was the Farm Bill, which is up for review by Congress later this year and includes policies and funding for SNAP (formerly known as Food Stamps, called CalFresh in California).The Food Bank and our fellow anti-hunger advocates are on high alert, since this omnibus bill is reauthorized just once every 4 or 5 years, and Republican lawmakers have threatened with funding cuts for SNAP numerous times in recent months.
SUNDAY, March 25
There was plenty to see on Day One of the conference, but the highlight was a panel session that included Charles M. Blow, an Op-Ed columnist at The New York Times, and Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center. The conversation quickly turned into a back-and-forth on the complex intersection of institutional racism, our education system, income inequality – and how it all relates to food insecurity. When it was over, the panel received a several-minutes long standing-ovation.
MONDAY, March 26
Monday’s sessions focused on the latest legislative threats to federal nutrition programs like SNAP, strategies for strengthening the federal safety net, ways to alleviate poverty, and how to address issues of economic exclusion. One of the panelists speaking on Monday was Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), who has been a voice for the most vulnerable and a strong advocate for working families. His speech left no doubt that he will continue to be a leading champion on working to improve and protect SNAP. Whether that means calling out damaging ideas like the recent ‘America’s Harvest Box’ proposal, or overdue strategies, like increasing the benefits to respond to the true cost of living.
TUESDAY, March 27 – Lobby Day
Like in years past, this conference wrapped up on Tuesday with visits to Capitol Hill where our team joined 1,000 anti-hunger advocates to walk the halls of Congress, meet one-on-one with legislators, and urge them to protect SNAP, which benefits over 40 million Americans who might otherwise go hungry.
Becky and Diana kicked off the day by meeting with staff of Senators Diane Feinstein and Kamala Harris. They explained the critical importance of a strong SNAP program for Californians across the state, and the need to fully fund the Emergency Food Assistance Program and the Supplemental Food Program, which help food banks to keep distributing nutritious groceries. In the afternoon, they met with staff from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Congressman Jared Huffman. Both are incredible allies in our local work to end hunger!
In the months ahead as the Farm Bill discussions ramp up, we will stay vigilant, and using our voice to fight for a strong, responsive, and accessible SNAP program for our neighbors in need. We can’t do this work without you!
Check out the #hungerpc18 hashtag on Twitter to see inspiring moments and reflections from the conference.