This year the House Agriculture Committee has hosted Listening Sessions all across the country to hear from key stakeholders as they prepare to draft and pass a new Farm Bill in 2018.
The Farm Bill is a massive piece of legislation that establishes programs and appropriates funding for everything from agricultural research to crop insurance to federal nutrition programs like SNAP (formerly food stamps). St. Louis Area Foodbank Outreach Coordinator, Ashley Rube, traveled to Decatur, IL on August 30th to testify at one of these Listening Sessions and advocate for the programs that provide vital resources to the nation’s food insecure. Read her testimony below or watch the hearing in full (see Ashley at 1:58:45)!
My name is Ashley Rube. I work at the St. Louis Area Foodbank, which serves 26 counties across both Missouri and Illinois. We are a member food bank of Feeding America, and we are privileged to work with 500 local agencies across our service territory that put life-changing resources into the hands of our neighbors in need.
With their help, we distributed over 42 million pounds of food last year to 392,000 individuals including senior citizens, veterans, working parents, and, our single largest food insecure population, children.
And their need persists. During the Foodbank’s first year of operation in 1975, it distributed roughly 160,000 pounds of food. We now move that much food every day. We have grown over the past 42 years to better address the need in our communities, but with 1 in 6 people in our region facing hunger, we cannot meet the need that exists on our own.
My church in St. Louis operates a food pantry that partners with the Foodbank. During each Sunday service the prayer requests of the pantry guests are shared aloud. They pray for better health, for stable work, and for safer living situations for their families. They pray for our elected officials. And they offer thanksgiving for upcoming job interviews, hopeful medical diagnoses, and the generosity of neighbors.
The people we serve are struggling to put food on the table. And when their need is met at the pantry, they can focus on all of the other parts of life we all need to thrive – from steady employment to healthy lifestyles, and even civic engagement..
Those of us here today – from farmers to food bankers and members of the Agriculture Committee – we know that food is where it all starts. Meeting this most basic need makes so much more possible
Food makes the difference. And thanks to the partnership of the federal government, those of us at the Foodbank make a bigger difference in our region. Nearly 20% of the foods we distribute are provided through The Emergency Food Assistance Program. All told, federal nutrition programs provide over a quarter of all the food we send out of our warehouse, and these foods are among the most nutritious we offer.
The nutrition programs contained in the Farm Bill – from TEFAP to SNAP – are vital in every sense of the word. They mean food on people’s tables, which means fuel for good work and healthier lives.
Despite our growth as a food bank, there is still need in Missouri and Illinois we cannot meet. But together – with a strong Farm Bill, fully funded nutrition programs, and conscientious policies – we can.
I ask, on behalf of my colleagues at the St. Louis Area Foodbank, our community partners, and the families we serve, to please thoughtfully consider how this Farm Bill can preserve and bolster our nation’s commitment to eliminating hunger. We thank you for your partnership and remain eager to collaborate with you for the good of all our communities.