Every day at TABLE, we work hard to ensure as many children in our community receive the healthy, nutritious food they deserve and require to grow and thrive, whether it be in school, on the basketball court, or on the stage. The food they receive not only fills their bellies but also gives them hope and encouragement.
TABLE began feeding kids in Chapel Hill and Carrboro ten years ago and since then we’ve witnessed a lot of change in our community including a growth in population and an increase in diversity. And while these changes have helped to grow our town and create new opportunities they have also lead to an increased need for hunger relief and nutrition education programs.
Today, 30% of preschool, elementary and middle school kids in Chapel Hill-Carrboro participate in the National School Lunch Program, suggesting 1 in every 3 local children are at risk for hunger on the weekends, school holidays, and during the summer – times when school is not in session. Additionally, this statistic demonstrates that these same kids have limited access to fresh, healthy and nutritious food.
Every week in Chapel Hill and Carrboro, TABLE makes deliveries of healthy food to 650+ children. For ten years we have learned how to effectively run our program in just one community! We have learned that it requires more than 100 volunteers, thousands of pounds of non-perishable food, increasing amounts of fresh food, significant storage space, two different menus of food to meet cultural and health needs, and nearly 15% of bags have allergy or special diet needs that require a specific item to be removed or included.
45% of TABLE’s families also rely on our nation’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, SNAP. People can use their SNAP benefits to purchase food items from grocery stores, farmers’ markets and other food retailers each month allowing them the freedom to choose the food that best matches their tastes, dietary needs, and cultural preferences.
In North Carolina alone, 1.5 million people use SNAP every month to help feed themselves and their families. Of the 1.5 million North Carolinians who rely on SNAP benefits, 696,000 are children. This could all change in 2019.
The current Administration is proposing major changes to the Farm Bill including cutting SNAP by $193 million and changing the way SNAP benefits are distributed. Under the new proposal, Americans who rely on SNAP will receive their benefits in the form of a USDA food package. Each package will consist of non-perishables including shelf-stable milk, ready to eat cereals, pasta, peanut butter, beans and canned fruit and vegetables. Unfortunately, the boxes are unable to consider allergies, diets, or cultural preferences.
As a result of our experience in delivering food to families, we are concerned that this change to the SNAP program may result in the reverse of the intended effect. By providing non-perishable food alone, access to fresh food will very likely be restricted. This could result in more health problems, obesity, and higher healthcare costs for the individual and government. Additionally, if families are unable to select the foods they and their children eat and know how to prepare, it may actually result in more food waste and even more hunger and food insecurity.
If you’d like to learn more about the proposed changes to the Farm Bill and to SNAP, you can get the latest information and updates from the Food Research and Action Center http://frac.org/action/snap-farm-bill.