September was National Hunger Action Month, and it was no better time to lobby our members of Congress. Every five years, a giant piece of legislation called the Farm Bill is passed, but it has been caught up in the congressional budget negotiations that teeter on a government shutdown.
Though its name might not immediately indicate it, the Farm Bill is the single most important piece of national legislation to fight hunger. Much of ACCFB’s food is paid for by these federal dollars, as is funding for SNAP/CalFresh, formerly known as food stamps.
Congressional Staffer Joel Miller (left), Chief of Strategy and Partnerships Allison Pratt, Senior Policy Advocate Ezer Pamintuan and Congressional Staffer Lucas Lam ‘in community’, Washington D.C., September 2023. Photo Courtesy: Ezer Pamintuan
Ezer Pamintuan, ACCFB Senior Policy Advocate, and Allison Pratt, ACCFB Chief of Partnerships and Strategy, went to Washington D.C. in September to advocate for anti-hunger policies—and, thanks to you, were backed up by over 2,000 messages from 750 ACCFB advocates in support of protecting, strengthening, and expanding equitable access to anti-hunger programs through the Farm Bill. While there they met with the offices of all three of Alameda County’s Representatives: Barbara Lee, Ro Khanna, and Eric Swalwell, as well as the office of Senator Alex Padilla.
According to Ezer, the staff members were moved by stories from the field. He and Allison shared the struggles of older adults on fixed incomes skipping meals or only eating energy bars because they don’t have enough money for dinner.
“Our elected leaders are fully supportive champions of an equitable Farm Bill,” said Ezer. “This is a great position to be in as an advocate, because instead of spending time convincing them to do the right thing, we were able to collaborate on strategies to get more funding, talk about the realities on the ground, and share how they can best support the work of the Food Bank.”
SNAP/CalFresh benefits are secure through the end of October, but after that, the fate of the Farm Bill is unclear with congressional negotiations at a standstill. ACCFB is poised to respond with additional support to the community if needed.
“We are closely monitoring the congressional situation,” said Ezer. “The Food Bank often plays the role of first responder in emergencies, and we are always prepared to ramp up support for our community during situations like government shutdowns, which have become increasingly likely as of late.
Ezer strongly encouraged ACCFB supporters to continue sending messages to their members of Congress. “When Allison and I went to DC, it was not really just the two of us there,” he said. “Our power came from the fact that 750 community members were there with us in spirit, sending messages to our representatives.”
Our current call to action — urging Congress to support food banks and strengthen CalFresh — is still live until the Farm Bill is signed into law. Send a message to your members of Congress to protect, strengthen, and expand equitable access to anti-hunger programs through the Farm Bill. It takes no more than three minutes to advocate for an equitable Farm Bill that will provide more food to our community.