10 Big City Mayors Send Strong Message to Congress About 2012 Farm Bill and Federal Food Assistance Benefits

In a letter sent March 6th, 2012 to senior Congressional lawmakers charged with crafting the 2012 Farm Bill, the mayors of 10 major metropolitan cities, including Boston, New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago made it clear that they consider food assistance funding of “critical” importance to the health and well-being of their residents.

The USDA’s federal food assistance support, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps, represents the lion’s share (about 80%) of the Farm Bill’s budget. The mayors are concerned that lawmakers are looking to streamline the budget by cutting back on food assistance programs. The mayors said the 46 million Americans who depend on food assistance benefits, half of whom are children, would go hungry if funding levels were not maintained.

The mayors also made it clear that nutrition incentive programs, such as the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program and the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program in Schools are of “key importance” to them. Additionally, they pointed out that current innovative pilot programs, which provide incentives to “SNAP recipients” to use their benefits at farmers markets to make healthier food purchases, have been very successful. They said expanding programs, such as New York City’s Health Bucks and Boston Bounty Bucks, at the federal level would not only promote good nutrition for the underserved but it would serve as “additional funding streams for small, regional farmers.”

Wholesome Wave, along with partners such as Michigan’s Fair Food Network, California’s Roots of Change and Louisiana’s Market Umbrella, are leading the way in famers market incentive programs. More than 50 partners in over 25 states and nearly 300 farmers markets are taking part in our Double Value Coupon and Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Programs. We’ve also launched a new Healthy Food Commerce Initiative, whose mission is to strengthen regional agriculture by catalyzing the development of regional food infrastructure while providing jobs and equal opportunities for community members and farmers. We couldn’t agree more with the mayors and congratulate them on taking such a bold stance on the national stage.

The letter was sent to the offices of U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan and Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, the Chairwoman and ranking member of the Senate Ag-Committee respectively along with U.S Representatives Frank Lucas, R-Oklahoma and Collin Peterson, D-Minnesota, chairman and ranking member of House Ag-Committee respectively.

The mayors who crafted the letter include Sam Adams of Portland, Oregon, Michael Bloomberg of New York City, Rahm Emanuel of Chicago, Greg Fischer of Louisville, Michael McGinn of Seattle, Thomas Menino of Boston, Michael Nutter of Philadelphia, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake of Baltimore,  R.T. Rybak of Minneapolis, and Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles.

Click here to read a copy of the letter.

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