Happy children eating at a table

We know that the economy is not working for everyone when the Census Bureau reports that 1 in 8 people living in this country are living in poverty, nearly 40 million people, according to this year's report. In 2017-2018, 11.8 percent of American households were food insecure, which means they were unsure at some point during the year how they would get their next meal. But this new data also shows that 3.4 million people moved above the poverty line in the United States last year thanks to support from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

In spite of this success, the House of Representatives and the Senate Joint Committee are currently in negotiations regarding whether to whittle down the SNAP program, part of the Farm Bill. The House version of this bill would take away food assistance from millions of people and add new work requirements. The bipartisan Senate version of the farm bill protects SNAP and calls for more initiatives to connect recipients with employment opportunities. All three of our elected officials voted in favor of the bills in their respective houses of Congress.

The major issue between Senate and House on SNAP is whether Congress will impose more stringent work requirements on recipients. But statistics show that over 80 percent of families receiving SNAP benefits are already working one or more jobs! And a full two-thirds of the recipients are children, seniors and persons with disabilities.

Making harmful changes and cuts to SNAP won't help anyone find work or move out of poverty — it will just make people hungry. We know that children who have enough to eat are healthier, do better in school and have improved economic outcomes as adults. And their parents need to eat in order to work and support them.

All four of us writing this — two teachers, a college professor and a visiting nurse — have, in the course of our work, witnessed many cases of hard-working students and families being unable to make ends meet and needing SNAP to put food on the table. For example, a couple of working parents raising two children and caring for a disabled grandmother were faced with the life-threatening illness of their younger son and the grandmother's condition deteriorating as well. The mother had to quit her job to care for the sick child and old person. The father's salary could barely pay the rent and utilities, even though he took a second job part time. Until they were able to access SNAP, the family often went hungry at the end of each pay period.

For decades, members of Congress have come together in a bipartisan way, committed to the idea that no one in this country should go to bed hungry. We need to make sure that commitment continues and that our members of Congress stand up for families and kids in Montana and protect SNAP. Please take a few minutes and call, write a letter, or send an e-mail or tweet to our three members of Congress: U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte, U.S. Sen. Jon Tester and U.S. Sen. Steve Daines. Make the Senate version of the Farm Bill the law for the coming year.

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This opinion is signed by RESULTS Montana members Kristin Freeman, Helen Matveyeff, Jane Duncan and Carla Mettling.

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