Foster comes to Aurora to spotlight nutrition assistance program
U.S. Rep. Bill Foster (D-Naperville) paid a visit to the Aurora Interfaith Food Pantry Friday, a day after the House Republican leadership voted in favor of a farm bill that did not include a nutrition assistance program for low-income families and seniors.
“For 40 years, the farm bill has been a symbol of bipartisan cooperation where rural interests come together with people interested in getting good nutrition for families across the country,” said Foster.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), previously known as food stamps, was taken out of the farm bill. The legislation passed Thursday by a vote of 216 to 208.
Foster said no Democrats voted for it.
“Unfortunately, the Republican leadership decided to turn it into a partisan fight,” Foster said.
On Friday, Foster had his sleeves rolled up helping the very clients that rely on the nutrition assistance program. Several families accepted his offer for him to roll the steel carts filled with groceries and load the packages into their cars.
Faustino Rosales, of Aurora, was trying to manage carrying his two grandchildren, who are 2 months and 1-year old, while rolling the grocery cart when Foster stepped in to help. Rosales said he was appreciative the congressman obliged and carried his 1-year-old grandson.
“It was very nice of him,” the grandfather said.
The non-profit Aurora Interfaith Food Pantry distributes food to 700 to 750 families each week and it needs about 15 volunteers on site to help on food distribution days.
Aurora Interfaith Food Pantry Executive Director Marilyn Weisner said many of the clients receive food stamps, but it doesn’t always get them through the end of the month. On Friday, more than 250 families came to the pantry’s door.
Weisner said that “37 percent of the people who come to food pantries have at least one working adult living in the household. It is not just the unemployed coming to the food pantry.”
“People have to pay the rent or mortgage, the utilities and put gas in the car to get to work. A lot of times people forgo buying food and nutrition is one of our most basic needs,” she said.
“This intent to cut the nutrition assistance program’s budget is particularly disturbing because it comes on top of a 40 percent cut to the emergency food and shelter program two years ago,” Weisner said. She said that program provides funding directly to food pantries and homeless shelters.
“Keep the money for the programs that will help people who need it the most. You can’t balance the budget by cutting programs for people who are the most vulnerable,” Weisner said.
Foster said once thought of as an inner-city nutrition assistance program, food pantries like the Aurora Interfaith Food Pantry are popping up in communities throughout his district. The concern is low-income families or people unable to find work will rely more heavily on food distribution sites.
“The demand will skyrocket,” Foster said.
The congressman said Thursday’s vote in the House of Representatives is reminiscent of the immigration bill, where the U.S. Senate reached a compromise and the House leadership is now refusing to bring it up for a vote.
“People need to raise their voices,” Foster said.