Colorado Needs Still High as D.C. Fights for Food Aid

In many ways, Derrick Hoffmann and Hanmei Hoffmann are accidental farmers.

“This was my wife’s idea,” he said, standing outside a greenhouse in Greeley.

From growing food for the family behind their home to weekend farmers markets, they now own and lease over 100 acres for their business, Hoffman Farms. .

At the Farm Bill Roundtable hosted by Congressman Yadira Carabeo, Hoffman told her that one niche market in particular has helped farms grow. “We have found that the market for food banks, pantries and schools is really underserved, much of it due to the policies of the Farm Bill.”

For example, the Farm to Schools program has enabled us to sell to local school districts, especially as free meals in schools have increased.

20230518-FARM-BILL-CKCaitlin Kim/Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation News
Derrick Hoffman of Hoffman Farms has been able to grow his business through food claim programs such as the farm-to-school program. Seedlings at Hoffman Farms ready to be planted.

The Farm Bill is the federal government’s primary tool to help Americans deal with food insecurity. In fact, more than 80% of his money included in the bill goes to food aid. But clashes over these programs are turning into political food wars.

Questions about the future as pandemic program ends

A dozen volunteers are packing food crates at the Rockies food bank in Grand Junction Friday morning. Most of them will be filled with nutritious and shelf-stable foods and produce that will eventually be distributed weekly in mobile pantries in Rifle, about an hour east.

The food bank, which serves 13 counties in the Western Slopes, has seen a surge in demand since the pandemic began and continues to do so.

Rocky Mountain Food Bank was able to meet their needs with the help of the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). Like many food assistance programs that focus on low-income households, this is sanctioned by the Farm Bill. Lately, however, the warehouse shelves that normally hold pallets of TEFAP food have been fairly empty.

“Everyone has to pay more for food, including at wholesale prices, and we are receiving less TEFAP food,” said Western Slope director. Sue Ellen Lodwick explained.

Lodwick met with USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack last summer to discuss the Farm Bill. She said it was an eye opener for her to actually see and hear the full extent of the bill.

“At the end of the day, we all want the same thing. , we want a way that we can distribute it to those who need it.”

20230518-FARM-BILL-CKCaitlin Kim/Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation News
Sue Ellen Rodwick, director of Western Slope for the Rocky Mountain Foodbank, said federal food shelves are usually stocked, but they’re mostly out of stock these days.

But farmers and anti-hunger advocates want more money to go into things like TEFAP and SNAP (programs formerly known as food stamps) and strengthen the bill’s nutrition title. , some lawmakers, especially Republicans, believe it’s time to feed. Some belt tightening.

SNAP battle moves from farm bill to debt ceiling

People aged 18 to 49 without dependents are now required to meet additional work requirements to be able to collect SNAP for more than a few months. These include working or volunteering at least 80 hours per month. There are also exemptions for pregnancy, physical or mental restrictions, or anyone under the age of 18 in her household.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is pushing for higher labor requirements. And he is not alone. Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert signed a letter with Florida Rep. Matt Gates calling for tougher work requirements for able-bodied adults to receive SNAP benefits. (As you might imagine, these requirements only apply to a small percentage of his SNAP recipients.)

The Republican position is now even more urgent. While Agriculture Commission members say the future of SNAP should be determined by Farm Bill negotiations, McCarthy and others argue that SNAP must be included in any deal to raise the debt ceiling. there is

20230518-FARM-BILL-CKCaitlin Kim/Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation News
Derrick Hoffman of Hoffman Farms has been able to grow his business through food claim programs such as the farm-to-school program. Here, seedlings from his farm are being prepared for planting.

“My preferred work requirement is much more than 20 hours a week,” Gates said on the podcast. “The service requirement I am requesting is that he should start in the 24th year.”

Gates says he works at least 30 hours a week. Other Republican lawmakers have proposed raising the minimum working age from 49 to 65. Boubert, who spoke about his mother’s use of government welfare, did not respond to a question about whether he supported maintaining SNAP’s current exemption. Exemptions for able-bodied adults, such as having someone in the household under the age of 18 or having physical or mental limitations.

Lodwick knows what it’s like to be on the receiving end of federal food aid. A few years ago, she suddenly became a single mother and could only work part-time due to her inability to care for her children. She said people could need food aid due to different circumstances.

“They are already working, or are unable to work because they are in families with children, or because they are elderly themselves. People in position need SNAP, they need that support,” she said.

Lodwick argues that receiving food aid does not create dependence. “Some people come to every stream because they need it. But the majority of people only get food aid when they need it, so we can’t see everyone on every stream,” she said. rice field.

“Death by a thousand kirigami”

More than 300,000 Colorado households received SNAP payments in March. Benefits were increased to about $370 a month during the pandemic, but once the pandemic is over, many beneficiaries will see their benefits cut significantly, even as low as $23 a month for some.

“Remember the last time you went to the grocery store. What did you get for $23?” asked Lenora Lee Cooper. The 59-year-old is long-term disabled due to brain damage from a car accident. Although she believes she will continue to be exempt because of her disability, she worries about the future of the food aid program.

“Someone explained it to me … said death by a thousand kirigami,” Cooper said. “We are not going to abolish the programs.

Democratic Rep. Yadira Carabeo said SNAP is one of the priorities of the Farm Bill. She points out that there are already work requirements in place to receive SNAP and other food aid.

“All this is going to do is impose onerous requirements on people, and it will drive out a lot of people who actually need the program, because they have a lot of work to do, paperwork to the government, etc. I have more important things to do, like I need to fill out the ,” she said. she said.

Carabeo, a doctor, said he saw many people in the clinic working hard, sometimes juggling multiple jobs and needing help setting food on the table. Compared to her Republican colleagues, she looks the other way when it comes to SNAP. She introduced a bill to extend pandemic-era benefits for another year to give people more time to plan.

“People are still hurting. Eggs are $6 a carton and they are still trying to put food on the table,” she said.

Colorado Senator Michael Bennett also emphasized the work requirement to receive SNAP.

“We see no reason to change the current labor requirements,” said Democrats.

Erica Way, the food security network coordinator for Boulder and Bloomfield counties, hopes politicians will also recognize the far-reaching benefits of these programs: helping local economies. SNAP funds are used in local supermarkets and farmers’ markets, and the Farm-to-Schools program benefits farmers, schools, and students.

“It not only helps our economy and our local food system, but it also helps people get back on their feet and pay their bills instead of worrying about what to feed their families,” she said. rice field.

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