Four GBFB team members were in Washington, D.C. for the National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference March 5-7. They joined more than 2,000 advocates from food banks, anti-hunger, public health, legal, and governmental organizations for the most highly attended conference yet. Three key themes emerged during the event:
SNAP, one of the most vital federal safety net programs, is facing proposed cuts and structural changes as the 2018 Farm Bill’s reauthorization approaches. During the conference, advocates gathered to discuss strategies for protecting SNAP and for sending a strong, clear message that SNAP works.
Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA) addressed conference attendees Tuesday morning to do just that. He stated, “No cuts to SNAP. No block grants. No structural changes. Don’t mess with a program that works!”
Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS), chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, also gave an address saying that block-granting SNAP would likely not receive support in the Senate, a statement that was met with a standing ovation from conference attendees.
Many health care providers are recognizing the negative consequences of food insecurity on health outcomes and associated healthcare costs. At the conference, anti-hunger advocates discussed strategies for improving connections between the health care system and emergency food system. GBFB’s very own Dr. Kathryn Brodowski, Director of Public Health & Research, presented her public health work during a session called “Screen and Intervene: How Anti-Hunger and Health Care Partners Can Address Food Insecurity”.
Adequate nutrition throughout childhood is critical for proper development and growth, reduces the risks of obesity, and can have effects on health and economic outcomes into adulthood. Strong child nutrition programs help to ensure that all children have access to the food they need to grow healthy and strong. The conference sessions covered USDA child nutrition program updates, Community Eligibility provisions, effective models for Breakfast in the Classroom, increasing Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program participation and expanding year-round access through Summer and After School nutrition programs.
The conference concluded with a lobby day on Capitol Hill. GBFB team members met with Massachusetts delegation staff from Senator Warren, Senator Markey, Representative Capuano, Representative Tsongas, Representative Clark, Representative Kennedy and Representative Moulton’s offices to discuss GBFB’s work and communicate the important role of federal nutrition programs in ending hunger across Eastern Massachusetts.