U.S. Rep. Ellison visits JFCS and PRISM to highlight importance of SNAP food security program

Following the failure of a farm bill in Congress that would have added additional work requirements for people receiving SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Program) benefits, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison visited JFCS and PRISM Food Shelf on May 25 to host a roundtable discussion on SNAP and food security issues. The discussion also included representatives from the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS), Hunger Solutions Minnesota, Second Harvest Heartland, and the University of Minnesota. Ellison’s Fifth Congressional District includes Golden Valley, where JFCS and PRISM are located.


JFCS and PRISM Food Shelf have an operating partnership to extend the capacities of both social service agencies to meet the needs of individuals and families experiencing financial hardship and/or food insecurity and are both housed in the same building. JFCS Food Security Program Coordinator Clare Gravon participated in the roundtable discussion.


During his visit, Ellison toured PRISM Food Shelf and hosted a livestream of the discussion on Twitter. During the livestream, Gravon told Ellison that work requirements for SNAP eligibility would hit individuals ages 50-plus who are unemployed especially hard.


“Studies show adults over age 50 do not get re-employed as fast as younger people,” she said. “This burden [of fulfilling work requirements] will fall particularly heavy on people in that 50-64 age range. For many of them, the food shelf is their only option because they’re not qualifying for other programs.”


Colleen Moriarty, Executive Director of Hunger Solutions Minnesota, said there is no logic in taking food away from people who are struggling and will not result in getting more people employed. “How does removing someone’s access to food make them more employable?” she asked.


Ellison touted the failure of the bill in Congress that would have added additional work requirements to SNAP, but warned that it was too early to celebrate. “The farm bill failed in the House (on May 18), which was a great day,” he said. “But we will see the bill again. That’s why we want to meet today.”


He praised all of the organizations that participated in the discussion and thanked them for the work they do in reducing food insecurity. “SNAP is a vital and critical program,” he said. “I respect what you do. I always learn a lot when I walk through the doors of PRISM.”


Facts about the Supplemental Nutrition Program (SNAP)

According to the Minnesota Department of Human Services:

  • In 2017, SNAP benefits contributed $602 million to Minnesota’s economy and helped more than 621,000 Minnesotans to purchase groceries. On average, Minnesota families receive $1.24 per person per meal in SNAP benefits. Roughly 70 percent of SNAP recipients are children, seniors, and people with disabilities.
  • In the Fifth Congressional District (where JFCS is located), 46.6 percent of SNAP households have children and 26.4 percent of SNAP households include people age 60 or older
  • Many people receiving SNAP are working, but still have incomes that are low enough to qualify for the program


Proposed SNAP time limits and work requirements

  • More than 198,000 Minnesota children and almost 110,000 parents are in households where SNAP benefits could be reduced because of new work requirements.
  • Imposing time limits and work requirements on families with children older than 6 years old puts food benefits at risk for families when enough hours or work are not available, when parents hit spells of unemployment or when other barriers to work are present.
  • In Minnesota, 67 percent of families with children receiving SNAP are working, but earn wages that are low enough that they still qualify for SNAP.