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Posted on Mon, Sep 27, 2010 : 10:54 a.m.

Will farmers markets be hurt if Congress cuts food stamps to pay for school lunches?

By Corinna Borden

Borden - picture of Bridge Card sign at WSFM

MIFMA donated this sign to the Westside Farmers Market to increase our traffic from Bridge card (food stamp) recipients. Will the Senate Bill hurt our Michigan farmers' markets?

Corinna Borden | Contributor

I have received several emails on the Michigan Farmers Market listserv urging us to contact our representative in the U.S. House of Representatives not to pass the U.S. Senate bill Hunger-Free Kids Act, S. 3307. People are concerned because the bill, as it stands, pays for its $4.5 billion price tag by cutting $2.2 billion from the SNAP (food stamps) program. 

The bill needs to be finalized this week before the current funding for certain school nutrition programs expires on Sept. 30. The House version of the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act, HR 5504 includes more provisions for summer meals and eligibility, but does not allocate funding for the $8 billion increase.

According to the Michigan Farmers Market Food Assistance Partnership (MIFMA), $297,000 in food stamp benefits were redeemed at Michigan farmers markets last year. MIFMA has done a lot of work supporting Michigan farmers markets to be able to accept bridge cards/food stamps this season.

All four farmers markets in Washtenaw County accept bridge cards. To date, the Westside Farmers Market has accepted nearly $1,000 in government nutrition benefits. That is $1,000 going into the hands of our local farmers and providing fresh food to our citizens versus a small step toward fighting the 30 percent obesity rate in American children by working toward healthier lunches.

Both the Senate version and the House version of the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act will increase funding for school lunches by six cents, up to $2.44 per meal. It is also the first time there has been an increase in 30 years.

Is the six cents a meal for the children worth cutting food stamp benefits for the whole family? If I were in Congress, I would pay for the six cents by taxing the "edible food-like substances" that line the shelves of convenience stores. In fact, I would increase school lunches by as much as I could tax, because I have taught in an inner city charter school and seen the difference in the attention span of a student subsisting on marshmallows and Cheetos and one who had a peanut butter sandwich for lunch. (Alternatively, we could scale back the subsidies that hide the real price of what food costs.)

As Stephen Colbert said recently, in his testimony to Congress about the plight of the migrant workers picking Americans fruits and vegetables, “The obvious answer is for all of us to stop eating our fruits and vegetables.”

That is one solution, but perhaps our representatives have another one. If you care about this issue, contact your Representative.

Corinna volunteers with the Westside Farmers Market and wrote a book about many things.



Thu, Sep 30, 2010 : 9:12 a.m.

@ Katie Nowhere did I mention cutting taxes God forbid us from doing that. I said not "increasing taxes". One can always give to your local food bank or your church of choice, those are noble ways of giving. I find it hard for those to give my money away, one can only give what they own, right?


Thu, Sep 30, 2010 : 8:49 a.m.

Good article. I do not agree with the previous poster that we should cut taxes by cutting food benefits for families. There are many other areas we could cut, including all those tax dollars for wars that should never have been started in the first place. We had no business committing those tax dollars, and Iraq was not a threat to the U.S. Hunger is a threat as the jobless rate grows in Michigan. Those who cannot find jobs should not starve. I do not want to live in a third world country where people are allowed to starve in the streets, including children. I'll gladly pay my taxes for people to buy food for their children and themselves. I'll make a deal with jondhall and others who want to cut these taxes: You pay the proportion of the taxes going to fund wars both directly and indirectly. I'll pay the proportion of taxes going for food and housing for the poor. See who keeps the most of their hard-earned money.


Thu, Sep 30, 2010 : 8:01 a.m.

Ms Borden, With your suggestion that: "Is the six cents a meal for the children worth cutting food stamp benefits for the whole family? If I were in Congress, I would pay for the six cents by taxing the "edible food-like substances" that line the shelves of convenience stores." Sounds like "TAX and spend to me". thank God you are not in Congress. I as the "tax payer" do not need someone else trying to tax me. How is this for a novel idea, good old hard work. Charity begins at home, not with the government, the government was set up to protect the people from outsiders, not to start a "charity". Good luck running in 2012.