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As summer break comes to an end in California, members of Congress will return to Washington DC, to resume negotiations on the 2018 farm bill, which authorizes funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The Senate and the House of Representatives passed dramatically different farm bills earlier this year, and while the Senate farm bill strengthened and protected SNAP — a powerful tool for supporting children and families and combating poverty and hunger — the House version proposed sweeping, aggressive work requirements while also slashing benefits.

As our federal representatives head back to the nation’s capital, now is a good time to highlight just how critical this program is for Californians.

SNAP — known as CalFresh in California — provides modest food assistance to an estimated 4 million Californians on average each month. Four out of 5 of those receiving CalFresh are children and their parents, seniors, and people with disabilities. CalFresh is one of the state’s most effective antipoverty programs, and, without CalFresh, over 850,000 more individuals would have lived in poverty in California from 2013 to 2015. SNAP also benefits local economies with an estimated $6.6 billion in federal benefits flowing directly to local businesses throughout California in the 2017-18 state fiscal year. In addition, research shows that CalFresh reduces food insecurity and has long-term positive impacts on participants’ health and well-being, particularly for children.

As our state’s delegation returns to the capital, Congressional leaders will try to come to an agreement on the farm bill before the end of September, when the current farm bill expires. It is critical for households across our state and nation that federal policymakers reject the House version of the farm bill. This proposal would increase hunger and hardship for many, including low-income children and their parents, seniors, and people with disabilities. The right direction is a new farm bill that protects and strengthens SNAP, providing vital support to millions of Californians struggling to make ends meet.

— Kristin Schumacher

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