Opposites on the political spectrum, two congressmen find common ground on SNAP
© Thinkstock

In the United States, one in eight people identifies as food insecure. Studies have shown that low-income households especially struggle with access to affordable and nutritious foods. Lack of access and options can lead individuals to seek low-cost, low-maintenance meals from fast food restaurants or convenience stores.

There is no denying the connection between low-income areas, poor access to nutritious meals, and our nation’s climbing obesity rates. We define areas of limited accessibility to affordable nutrient-dense foods as ‘food deserts.’

ADVERTISEMENT

Access to quality nutrition is not a partisan issue - food deserts hit both rural and urban neighborhoods, and it’s imperative that Republicans and Democrats work together to find stronger solutions to address food deserts.

Kansas’ 1st District and Pennsylvania’s 2nd District may often fall on opposite ends of the political spectrum; however, when it comes to ensuring families have access to food on their dinner table, we recognize no party affiliation.

The 2018 Farm Bill is being designed to meet the interests of American farmers and consumers. With food insecurity weighing on our hearts, we have made increasing access to healthy foods for neighborhoods in need a top priority. During our agriculture listening sessions across the country, we were reminded of the importance of solid nutrition policy that provides a temporary lifeline for more than 40 million Americans.

We’ve both held numerous ag-focused events and town halls in our districts. Since the start of the 115th Congress, we have engaged in thoughtful and productive conversations. Everyone across the supply chain voiced concerns, and we learned what is most important to the American people when it comes to our domestic and foreign food policy.

As members of the House Ag Committee, we are anxious to find solutions to our food insecurity problems across the nation. Federal programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provide millions of low-income families with nutrition assistance.

Today SNAP helps more than 200,000 people in Kansas and 1.8 million recipients in Pennsylvania. But the SNAP program alone cannot solve our nation’s food insecurity concerns.

We also heard how critical it is to have sound crop insurance, along with other production safety net programs, to help our farmers stay competitive against Mother Nature and unpredictable markets. Indeed, just as the SNAP program provides a critical safety net for many in both rural and urban America, crop insurance is the integral part of the food industry backstop.

In 2010, the Healthy Fresh Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) went into effect to help bridge the access gap. HFFI allocates federal funds so that states can address their individual health concerns and become better equipped for sustainable aid distribution. HFFI works with the USDA, Department of Treasury, and Health and Human Services to bring fresh, nutritious foods to communities in need. This program has helped states fill in the gaps to expand food access nationwide through public-private partnerships that work together and share the most effective methods of healthy food outreach implementation.

Initially, this program served as a private partnership that developed 88 supermarkets and fresh food outlets in underserved rural and urban areas in Pennsylvania as part of their Fresh Food Financing Initiative. The state knows first-hand the vital importance of these funds and how it can continue to better serve their residents. Alongside Pennsylvania, Kansas has been working to end food insecurity. Regardless of political differences in Pennsylvania’s 2n District and Kansas’s 1st District, we all can agree to support efforts to provide healthy fresh food to those facing food insecurity.

As freshman members of Congress, we have no axes to grind – there is work to be done and commitments to keep. That’s why we pledged to work together in the 2018 Farm Bill to prioritize addressing hunger and maintaining important agriculture safety net programs, and insulating them from hollow attempts to appease partisan interests which only pull us farther apart. An intelligent Farm Bill will continue to provide a critical safety net while ensuring that America’s farmers are allowed to operate on an even playing field. Americans are clear about their desire to have bipartisan cooperation on such important legislation, and that is what we intend to deliver.

Evans is a Democrat who represents Pennsylvania’s 2nd District and Marshall is a Republican who represents Kansas’s 1st District. They are both members of the House Agriculture Committee.