In response to questioning by Senator Collins, Secretary Perdue agreed that there was no justification for eliminating funding for this vital program that supports low-income seniors
Washington, D.C. — At a hearing this morning to review the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) fiscal year 2020 budget request, Senator Susan Collins, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, pressed Secretary Sonny Perdue on the proposed elimination of the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, commonly known as the Senior Food Box program. Senator Collins emphasized how important the Senior Food Box program is to seniors throughout Maine.
“As our country’s oldest state by median age, the Senior Food Box program is vital to low-income seniors. Just to give you an idea of the reach of this program, the Good Shepherd Food Bank in Auburn distributes approximately 9,000 supplemental food boxes each month to partner agencies across the state, which in turn distribute them to seniors,” said Senator Collins. “Unfortunately, this program, which really makes a difference to the nutritional well-being of our seniors, was eliminated in the administration's budget. What is the justification for eliminating the Senior Food Box program?”
“I'm a big fan of the food box, in fact that was the beginning of the origin of our Harvest Box idea for SNAP. I think it's worked very well,” responded Secretary Perdue. “While the budget doesn't reflect that, I can't give you a justification for that… I know that a lot of seniors depend on that, and our food banks have done a great job in doing that.”
“I hope that's something where we can work together and secure the funding, which is significant to a lot of our rural seniors,” Senator Collins replied.
Following Senator Collins’ advocacy, the 2018 Farm Bill included the Nourishing Our Golden Years Act, bipartisan legislation that strengthened the Senior Food Box program by simplifying the recertification process and reducing administrative burden on states.
The USDA’s budget proposal also includes harmful changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). These changes would bypass the intent of Congress in the 2018 Farm Bill, which received overwhelming bipartisan support, and would take food assistance away from families across the country. Last month, Senators Collins and Angus King joined a bipartisan group of 47 Senator in urging the Department to withdraw the proposal.
Established in 1981, Good Shepherd Food Bank distributes food to more than 400 partner agencies across Maine, including food pantries, meal sites, and schools. In addition to providing food to Mainers in need, Good Shepherd Food Bank is leading a statewide effort to combat the root causes of hunger by engaging in advocacy, nutrition education, and strategic partnerships.