Guest Opinions

Federal support is essential in Idaho’s ongoing fight against hunger

Lynn Hoffmann
Lynn Hoffmann

When you work or volunteer at The Idaho Foodbank, you get a sense of the struggles that families in our communities face. As the chair of the board of directors for The Idaho Foodbank, I see working families who struggle to earn enough to keep nutritious food on their tables, or are coping with medical debt from an unexpected health crisis, or are at home caring for a sick family member. Current congressional budget proposals threaten to make life even tougher for these folks by putting in jeopardy critical food security programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and Women, Infants and Children (WIC) food and nutrition service.

Clients who use the services of The Idaho Foodbank are often also recipients of SNAP. Many people know SNAP as food stamps — although few people know what a critical lifeline the program can be for families, seniors and communities across the state. In Idaho, 175,000 people use SNAP to help put food on the table. That’s 1 in 10 Idaho residents who is working but earns too little, has been laid off, is retired, experienced an expensive medical emergency, or otherwise needs a little extra help to get by in hard times. SNAP works by giving a helping hand when people need it most. The average new household stays on SNAP for less than a year, using the program for a short time to help them pay their bills and regain self-sufficiency. Nearly two-thirds of the people SNAP helps are children, seniors or people with disabilities. In fact, one in four of our nation’s children uses SNAP to help get enough to eat.

What would happen to our neighbors in need if federal food assistance is severely restricted, as the current congressional budget seems to propose? Despite our best efforts to meet the needs of our communities, The Idaho Foodbank could never make up the difference. Food pantries and shelters around the state are already operating at capacity and could not fill the gap if SNAP were cut. Thousands of families would be put at risk, local retailers would lose business, and our communities would suffer without food assistance funding.

I believe that families in a great nation like ours should not have to go hungry. We need to unite and call on Congress to oppose the budget resolutions that would pave the way for harmful cuts to the programs that provide basic nutrition to our fellow Idahoans. Please join me in contacting our congressional delegation and asking them to ensure critical food assistance programs are sufficiently funded in upcoming budget resolutions.

Lynn Hoffmann is the current chair of the board for The Idaho Foodbank and is a small-business owner in the Treasure Valley.