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Minnesota faith leaders oppose cuts to nutrition assistance

WILLMAR — More than 150 Minnesota clergy and religious leaders are urging U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar to oppose cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — formerly known as food stamps — in the farm bill being negotiated in Congress.

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The faith leaders say Klobuchar’s position on the farm bill conference committee, which is tasked with finding a compromise between House and Senate versions, enables the senator to play an important role in safeguarding what they say are vital safety-net programs that protect hardworking Minnesota families from hunger and further economic hardship.

“I would say that from all the media reports I have seen is that a large percentage of those receiving benefits are young children and elderly who are in need,’’ said the Rev. Jeffrey Horejsi at St. Andrew Parish of Fairfax.

“In this very difficult economy, it seems especially cruel to be cutting back on food aid,’’ Horejsi said.

A letter from the religious leaders asks Congress to do its part to support their low-income constituents. It says federal nutrition programs such as SNAP have played an indispensable role in preventing hunger and alleviating poverty during the economic crisis that has devastated Americans for the last five years.

The faith leaders say a new farm bill must protect SNAP, not cut its already meager benefits “or enact wrongheaded rule changes that increase hunger.’’ The leaders say the House version of the farm bill would do just that in Minnesota and around the country.

“There is no justification for Congress to make our food lines longer by cutting SNAP,’’ the letter says.

The proposed cuts in the House-passed nutrition bill are so deep they would effectively double the demand on emergency food providers nationwide, according to the letter.

It says “misguided work requirements in the bill would entirely cut off 4 million desperately poor adults who can’t find work or access job-training programs in their economically depressed communities.’’

The letter continues by saying ex-offenders who have paid their debt to society, and who already face steep barriers to finding jobs, would face hunger as they work to get back on their feet and reintegrate into society.

The broad range of religious traditions represented by the signers “reminds us that it’s not a particular denominational issue, nor is it a particular partisan political issue. It’s a human issue that just about anyone can understand. It is an important need,’’ Horejsi said.

“I think this is one of those vital lifeline programs that should be regarded as an automatic-passage kind of bill that shouldn’t be haggled about to save what is in many respects a pretty small percentage of the federal budget.’’

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150