Arlington, VA, April 19, 2018 – Meals on Wheels America President and CEO Ellie Hollander today issued the following statement in response to the passage of H.R. 2, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (Farm Bill) by the House Agriculture Committee:
As a national organization envisioning an America in which all seniors live nourished lives with independence and dignity, we express our strong concerns about the harm and hardship that the 2018 House Farm Bill (H.R. 2) would place on some of our nation’s most vulnerable neighbors and families who are struggling with hunger.
The Farm Bill is this country’s most comprehensive food and farm legislation, reaching into virtually every aspect of rural America and the broader economy by authorizing programs and research that address food safety, nutrition and the environment. Specifically, the federal nutrition programs authorized under the Farm Bill – such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – play an invaluable role in providing food assistance to more than 20 million low-income households, 4.7 million of which include seniors. For at-risk seniors, SNAP’s modest benefit helps to promote health and independence, and eases the all-too-common burden of choosing between buying food and paying for other necessities, such as medicine, rent and/or utilities.
H.R. 2 includes untested provisions that would limit the supportive reach and social safety net SNAP has embodied since its founding. For example, proposed changes to work requirements and time limits in SNAP eligibility, as well as the elimination of state flexibility to enhance SNAP access, would significantly weaken the program’s existing structure. Older adults – who often face longer periods of unemployment, discrimination and other challenges that come along with aging – would lose access to vital nutrition under such structural changes.
In Fiscal Year 2016, 12% of all SNAP participants were at or over the age of 60. Older adults are among the most vulnerable to malnutrition, and their health status may be compromised with even a slight reduction in nutritional intake. This could lead to increased use of costly healthcare programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. Proposals that limit access and reduce benefits not only harm older adults, but also their families, caregivers and, ultimately, taxpayers.
While we appreciate attempts to protect individuals 60+ from losing nutrition assistance, the proposals in H.R. 2 would weaken SNAP’s overall structure and limit access for people of all ages. We know that healthy aging begins well before one reaches the age of 60, and access to proper nutrition is critical throughout one’s life. As the House moves forward and the Senate considers its own Farm Bill, we urge Congress to commit to safeguarding federal nutrition programs, protecting them from any structural changes that would increase hunger and undermine their effectiveness for seniors and their families.
Read here for a joint letter sent to the House Agriculture Committee authored by a coalition of national anti-hunger, aging, faith-based and anti-poverty organizations that includes Meals on Wheels America.
About Meals on Wheels America
Meals on Wheels America is the leadership organization supporting the more than 5,000 community-based programs across the country that are dedicated to addressing senior isolation and hunger. This network serves virtually every community in America and, along with more than two million staff and volunteers, delivers the nutritious meals, friendly visits and safety checks that enable America’s seniors to live nourished lives with independence and dignity. By providing funding, leadership, education, research and advocacy support, Meals on Wheels America empowers its local member programs to strengthen their communities, one senior at a time. For more information, or to find a Meals on Wheels provider near you, visit www.mealsonwheelsamerica.org.
Jenny Bertolette Young
Meals on Wheels America