The board of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger and a group of rabbis from around the country were on Capitol Hill Wednesday lobbying against the House farm bill on the grounds that the nutrition title will make some Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants lose benefits while not helping needy military families get food they need.
For several years, MAZON has pointed out that counting a service member’s Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) as income when determining eligibility for federal nutrition assistance keeps needy families from qualifying for SNAP and said that excluding the BAH would help thousands of low-income military families put food on the table.
The House farm bill contains a provision that excludes the first $500 of a service member’s BAH from counting as income for SNAP eligibility determination, but MAZON maintains that amount is too low to make much of a difference.
A group of rabbis from around the country were at the Capitol Wednesday to deliver a letter from nearly 700 Jewish clergy urging members to vote against the House farm bill. Taking part in MAZON’s inaugural Rabbinic Justice Mission, from left: Scott Bolton, New York; Michael Singer, Pennsylvania; Peter Stein, New York; Fred Scherlinder Dobb, Maryland; Cynthia Kravitz Entin, Pennsylvania; Harold Kravitz, Minnesota; Aaron Meyer, Washington; Joel Pitkowsky, New Jersey; Brian Schuldenfrei, California; Deana Berezin, Nebraska; Jay Kornsgold, New Jersey, and Erin Glazer, Washington, D.C. (MAZON)
In a recent article on Military.com, Abby Leibman, president and CEO of MAZON, and Kathy Roth-Douquet, CEO of Blue Star Families, a national, nonprofit network dedicated to supporting, connecting and empowering military families, wrote that House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway, R-Texas, “has perpetuated a confusing situation without fully resolving this unacceptable problem that military families needlessly endure.
“What also remains unclear, even to the advocates who have been on the front lines of the effort to fix this issue, is how he arrived at this arbitrary amount. How many military families does he suggest will be helped by this $500 income exclusion? And just as important: How many will still be left behind?”
MAZON says that military families’ use of food banks near military bases shows that military families need easier access to SNAP and other federal nutrition benefits.
MAZON also maintains that the bill’s work requirements will hurt single mothers because it says unemployed parents of children over age 6 will have a month to find work or enter a training program or lose benefits. MAZON also says that the work requirements will hurt the 25 percent of American Indians who get SNAP benefits because there are few jobs in Indian Country. Finally, MAZON opposes the bill because it raises the upper age limit for those who are subject to work requirements from 49 to 59, and older people face significant barriers to finding employment and are often unemployed for longer periods of time.
“Jewish text and tradition compel us to honor the dignity of every person, especially those who are struggling to feed themselves and their families,” said Rabbi Joel Pitkowsky, treasurer of the MAZON board of directors and rabbi at Congregation Beth Sholom in Teaneck, N.J. “The proposals put forth in this draft of the farm bill are at odds with the teachings of our faith. No matter a person’s circumstance, no one deserves to be hungry.”
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