Great Plains Food Bank CEO Steve Sellent, farmer William Hejl, North Dakota Farmers Union Community Organizer Brandon Delvo, and rancher and former state director of USDA Rural Development Ryan Taylor at a news conference regarding the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) on June 21 at Hejl’s farm near Casselton. Chris Aarhus / NDFU

 

An event was held at the William Hejl farm June 21 near Casselton, N.D., to raise awareness of the benefits of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Formerly referred to as food stamps, SNAP helped feed nearly 54,000 North Dakotans in 2016. However, President Donald Trump’s budget proposal cuts $193 billion from the program over the next 10 years. Under the proposal, 25 percent of the cost of the federal program would shift to the states.

Former state senator and state director of USDA Rural Development Ryan Taylor led coordination of the event. Taylor, North Dakota Farmers Union Community Organizer Brandon Delvo, Great Plains Food Bank CEO Steve Sellent and Hejl each spoke about the important role SNAP plays in feeding the nation’s hungriest.

Delvo spoke about the connection between rural and urban communities.

“At NDFU, we believe family farmers are the critical element in a dynamic system of communities and families that make up rural America,” Delvo said. “We are called to support our neighbors who are hungry, many of whom are in rural communities as well as urban.”

Sellant said SNAP is another tool — much like the Great Plains Food Bank — to curb nationwide hunger.

“With one out of nine North Dakotans struggling with hunger, it takes charitable programs like the Great Plains Food Bank, strong support from the private sector, and government programs like SNAP all coming together to meet the need for food assistance,” Sellant said. “Even with that, many North Dakota children, seniors, and adults are still missing meals and the proposed cuts to the SNAP program would have a devastating effect on tens of thousands of North Dakota families who would have even less to eat.”

The event was hosted by Hejl, who said hunger shouldn’t be an issue in America, considering the nation’s food abundance.

“Imagine walking into the grocery store and not having enough money to buy food for your children,” he said. “In America, there’s no excuse for the elderly, disabled and children to not have enough food.”

Taylor acknowledged a disconnect between the public and the program, especially regarding who receives SNAP benefits. Three out of four SNAP recipients are children, elderly and those with disabilities.

“There are are a lot of misconceptions about who’s benefitting from SNAP,” said Taylor, who farms and ranches near Towner, N.D. “We have a broad coalition of folks who understand what hunger can do to a family. We’re proud to grow that food and make sure that the people who need the food have access to it through the SNAP program.”

— Chris Aarhus, NDFU