A group of 30 people from Harvesters and area food agencies traveled to Jefferson City for Harvesters’ Advocacy Day. The group met up with other food bank workers and agencies from Missouri food banks. We started with a short meeting hearing from Rep. Bob Nance, a Republican author of legislation to increase supplemental food stamp assistance for elderly. Bob Nance encouraged workers in food banks to continue serving a vital community need – providing emergency food aid. Brian Colby with the Missouri Health Advocacy Alliance addressed the food bank group. He emphasized that food banks are on the front line of the economic downturn by focusing on the safety net of food assistance. He noted that food stamps provide an economic benefit to local communities by injecting funds into people’s hands to purchase food. The group heard from Jan with the Ozarks Food Bank and Karen Haren with Harvesters.
After the brief gathering, individuals were invited to visit with legislators. I had four legislators to visit to discuss supporting HB 156 – a house bill written to increase the supplemental food stamp assistance to the elderly -- $30 for an individual or $60 for a couple per month. SB34 is a senate bill calling for an end to the lifelong ban on food stamp applications for people convicted of a drug crime.
Rep. Kate Meiners was eager to learn about the food bank relationships with community organizations, and said she would support HB156. Her interest in food bank work was piqued when I mentioned that Harvesters has a nutrition education program.
The legislative session started at 10:00 that morning when both house and senate members went to their respective floors for roll call. I waited for Rep. Jeff Grisamore after asking a doorkeeper to visit with him. Rep. Grisamore was interested in hearing about HB156 and the house version of SB34 (the House bill equivalent is HB968).
The first thing Sen. Matt Bartle asked was whether a person can purchase white bread, soda, and chips with food stamps. He was concerned that people using food stamps would make unhealthy choices for food items. He reinforced several misconceptions about food assistance by implying that most people that seek assistance do so without seeking jobs or self-sufficiency. He also mentioned how food stamps perpetuate people’s dependency on food aid. When pressed on whether he would support SB34, he said he could not support an end to the ban on food stamp assistance for drug felons who have served their time. He hinted that people convicted of drug crimes were quite able to find jobs.