Granite State Progress highlights importance of food stamps at City Hall event

NASHUA – Rally organizers said the 88 empty food cans at City Hall Wednesday represented the more than 88,000 New Hampshire residents relying on the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

Zandra Rice Hawkins, executive director at Granite State Progress, hosted the first in a series of events, “No Soup for SNAP,” actions that call on government leaders to protect food access.

“We need SNAP in New Hampshire and we need SNAP in America,” added Lisa Beaudoin at City Hall on Wednesday.

Beaudoin is a member of ABLE NH, a Concord-based entity that describes itself as a “grass roots organization dedicated to working toward equality and advocating for the civil rights of individuals and families with disabilities.”

Once known as food stamps, SNAP is a federal program managed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Organizers of the Wednesday rally fear moves by Republicans will endanger the food supply for those in need.

“It boggles my mind that we would even think about trying to cut food systems for the people who are most vulnerable and most at risk,” said Mike Reinke, who is the executive director at the Nashua Soup Kitchen & Shelter.

“We know that 40 percent of the kids going to Nashua public schools, 4,000 children, are getting free and reduced lunch,” Reinke added.

Reinke said his kitchen see up to 200 people for dinner every day. He said every year, 6,000 families will come through their pantry to get access to monthly food or fresh fruits and vegetables. In working to address the hungry stomachs of some students, the agency recently started a program where they provide frozen, ready to serve meals to kids in Nashua.

“In the first year alone, we provided 23,000 meals to kids who are food insecure and needing an extra meal or two throughout the week,” Reinke said.

The GOP-controlled House of Representatives has passed a farm bill that would expand work requirements for those receiving food stamps, while limiting governors’ ability to waive requirements. However, the Senate version made minor changes, including extending job training programs.

President Donald Trump took to Twitter Wednesday morning and tweeted, “#FarmBill with SNAP work requirements will bolster farmers and get America back to work. Pass the Farm Bill with SNAP work requirements!”

U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, D-N.H., countered Trump’s post.

“I’m fighting for a #FarmBill that puts Granite State farmers, rural communities, and families first! #farmbill2018,” Kuster tweeted Wednesday.

A conference committee is meeting to work through the differences in the bills, with hopes of reaching a compromise by Sept. 30.

Kimi Dettore, manager at Revive Recovery Center in Nashua, hopes there is a viable way to keep feeding those in need.

“You can’t tell that person, ‘I’m sorry – regularly we would feed you, but we can’t now because you are not doing enough to prove to us that you need help with food at all.’ That is terrifying,” Dettore said. “It sounds like the denial of just the human right to be fed.”

Adam Urquhart can be reached at 594-1206 or aurquhart@nashuatelegraph.com.