It’s time to address food insecurity in the Farm Bill!

By: Eloni Porcher, Communications Manager

Community care is ensuring every person has access to sustainable, nourishing food they can afford. 

Nutrition in the US is most often decided, not by personal or individual choice, but by where you live, what you do, and what you can afford to buy. And for communities of color, food apartheid and systemic racism further limit the nutritious food we have access to.  

As a doula, I have become acutely aware of how the barriers and inequities pregnant people face while accessing the care and nourishment they need are deeply connected to those impacting our food and farm systems. 

Eloni, HEAL Communications Manager, as a child in her home in Ellicott City, MD

Like many of the pregnant people and families I support, I grew up in Maryland in a majority Black, Asian, and Brown neighborhood where many families in my community, including my own, have relied on SNAP and food assistance programs to nourish themselves. 

Currently, over 34 million people, including 9 million children, in the US are food insecure. And these rates are expected to rise as cuts to food stamps, rising food prices, and stagnant wages persist. By centering food insecure folks in the upcoming Farm Bill we can begin to address the shortcomings of food and nutrition policy. 

Recently (and disappointingly) Biden passed a debt ceiling agreement that expanded work requirements for adults 50 to 54 years old to receive SNAP and other food assistance programs – putting 750,000 older adults at risk of losing their benefits and ability to nourish themselves. 

SNAP benefits and where we lived provided my family and community both access and agency to choose where our food came from: whether from our local H mart and produce markets where we bought affordable fruits and veggies and ancestral foods, or large chain grocery stores and farmers markets, all were within 5 miles of our homes.

The neighborhood I grew up in, however, was located in a predominantly white and affluent county with access to an abundance of affordable and nutrient dense food options. Just a few miles away, my extended family members living in segregated neighborhoods in Baltimore had significantly less nutritious food options due to food apartheid and systemic racism.   

Low income families of color living in areas where supermarket redlining and food apartheid drive food access often pay higher prices for lower quality groceries. And in settler colonies like Puerto Rico, where imported food prices are higher than on the mainland due to shipping tariffs, residents are ineligible for food assistance programs.   

Expanding eligibility requirements for SNAP ensures more food insecure folks – including incarcerated people, farm workers, and folks with disabilities and chronic disease who experience food insecurity at higher rates –  have access to the foods they otherwise would not be able to receive nor could afford.  

It is vital now more than ever to address food insecurity and protect food assistance programs, like SNAP which are currently under threat. Nutrition assistance programs are a proven tool to combat food insecurity and poverty and are a lifeline for millions 

A new bill introduced by Senator Booker and Rep Blunt Rochester would expand a nutrition incentive program (GusNIP) to increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables for low income communities, while also providing markets for local farmers. 

Photo by Rion Moon & Jam Rose

This week, HEAL is calling on the Senate and House Ag committees to increase investment and expansion of SNAP and GusNIP, support the Puerto Rico Nutrition Assistance Program, and oppose new cuts to nutrition assistance programs. 

Join us by calling your Congress members in support of a farm bill for thriving futures for us all! 

HEAL’s vision is for a 2023 Farm Bill that transforms our destructive food and farm systems, our health, our planet, and our communities, and prioritizes the well-being of BIPOC and rural communities and human and environmental health.

Learn more about the nourishing people HEAL policy priority for the 2023 Farm Bill.

Eloni Porcher is a storyteller and strategic communicator who crafts messages, builds strategies and conducts research to inform communications and development for HEAL and its members. Her previous experience includes research, digital comms and media relations in global health, community development and nonprofit sectors where she specialized in gender health issues impacting BIPOC communities in the US and women across the Global South. Eloni has a B.A. in Communication Studies and minor in International Studies from Northeastern University and is currently based in the Washington, DC – Baltimore region on Piscataway land.