LWVUS joined more than 250 other groups on a letter to House and Senate agriculture committee leadership urging them to protect and strengthen the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and invest in rural childcare access and maternal health care in the 2023 Farm Bill for gender justice.
August 14, 2023
Dear Chairwoman Stabenow, Ranking Member Boozman, Chairman Thompson, and Ranking Member Scott,
As organizations dedicated to promoting gender justice and working to ensure all women, LGBTQI+ people, and their families can live their lives with dignity, we write to urge lawmakers to use the Farm Bill to strengthen and expand the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and to make investments that advance family economic security and health.
SNAP is our nation’s bedrock nutrition and anti-hunger program, helping millions of women, LGBTQI+ people, and their families around the country to put food on the table and promoting health by supporting families in affording a nutritious diet. Recent data on participation show that women, people of color, LGBTQ+ people, and people with disabilities were more likely to participate in SNAP:
● From October 2019 to February 2020, women were more than six in 10 (63 percent) of adult SNAP recipients.
● About one in three (33.0 percent) non-elderly adult SNAP recipients was a woman of color in 2020.
● From June 2020 through September 2020, over six in 10 (64 percent) of SNAP households with children were headed by a single adult, 92 percent of which were headed by women.
● In 2020, 29 percent of LGBTQ women and 28 percent of nonbinary/genderqueer individuals reported that they, their partner, or their children received SNAP benefits in the past year.
● In 2015, SNAP served over 11 million people with disabilities.
The program not only promotes better nutrition and reduces food insecurity, it also frees up money for those struggling to make ends meet to spend on other necessary costs like medical care and housing. Research shows that SNAP leads to improved health outcomes for families, as well as improved education, economic security, and other positive outcomes for children who grow up in families with low incomes. In 2022, SNAP moved about 2.8 million people out of poverty, including nearly 1.2 million women (316,000 of whom are Black, 293,000 of whom are Latina, 46,000 of whom are Asian, and 500,000 of whom are white, non-Hispanic).
And yet, existing restrictions, like time limits, prevent too many people from accessing SNAP’s life-saving benefits. Congress must rollback existing time limits and, at a minimum, reject any attempt to expand these already harmful restrictions. The majority of adult SNAP recipients who can work, do work and research has shown that time limits do not increase employment or have a positive impact on the economy. And time limits punish those who face barriers to seeking employment, including those who struggle to find work in an economy without enough jobs with full-time hours and living wages. A 1 Calling the SNAP time limits “work requirements” is a misnomer, as a person's willingness to work or conduct an active job search does not suffice to protect them against being cut off from SNAP. proposed expansion of time limits to caregivers with children six and older will fall hardest on women who are more likely to be caregivers and to be underemployed in low-wage jobs.
In addition, Congress should take the opportunity in the Farm Bill to eliminate other arbitrary restrictions on SNAP such as:
● time limits that impose additional barriers on college students;
● limits on using SNAP to purchase hot food at the grocery store;
● barriers for immigrants with authorized statuses;
● barriers for people convicted of a drug felony and are trying reenter society; and
● the block grant restriction for SNAP in U.S. territories.
At the same time, Congress must protect the updates to make the Thrifty Food Plan calculation more accurate for the 21st century. USDA undertook this update based on instructions from the 2018 Farm Bill.
In addition to protecting and strengthening SNAP, the Farm Bill represents an opportunity to advance family economic security through improving access to child care and improving public health. Over half of families live in a child care desert, without a sufficient supply of child care, but for rural families, the supply crisis is even worse, with nearly 3 in 5 rural communities considered a child care desert. In a 2022 survey from Save the Children, 55 percent of rural voters said that availability of child care has declined since the pandemic. The Farm bill should prioritize child care in US Department of Agriculture rural development programs as laid out in the bipartisan Expanding Childcare in Rural America (ECRA) Act.
In addition to the child care crisis, the maternal health crisis also disproportionately affects women in rural America. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2021, maternal deaths increased 40 percent from the previous year. Women in rural and underserved communities face additional risks and challenges, such as a lack of access to coordinated care, that lead to higher rates of maternal mortality and other severe health complications. We support increasing Community Facilities program funding to rural hospitals specifically for maternal health and maternal telehealth services. We must meet these important needs for women by providing robust support for rural health care systems through the Farm Bill.
In conclusion, the Farm Bill is an opportunity to close equity gaps and invest in women, LGBTQ+ people, and their families by protecting and strengthening SNAP, improving access to child care, and increasing funding for rural hospitals. We urge you to prioritize these policies in the upcoming Farm Bill reauthorization.
See full list of signatories in attachment.