Tens of thousands of Vermonters will lose some of their emergency food benefits this spring.

3SquaresVT is the statewide version of a federal program called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. It helps households increase their food budget

Before the pandemic, each household under the program received a certain food spending allotment depending on its individual situation. Then, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act authorized every SNAP household to receive the maximum allotment allowed, which went on for nearly three years. Wisdom says the 2023 Omnibus Bill has reverted spending back to pre-pandemic methods.

“It’s elderly single people, it’s families, it’s couples, it’s everyone who’s losing these extra benefits,” Wisdom notes.

She says over 70,000 Vermonters participate in the program and will lose the extra benefits starting April 1st.

But the state doesn’t have control over the program, Wisdom adds, which is why advocates are calling for change. Ivy Enoch, the Food Security Advocacy Manager with Hunger Free Vermont, says changes must come at the national level.

“Our next chance to make sure that people are taken care of in terms of getting what they need to be fed and nourished is the upcoming Farm Bill,” Enoch says.

The Farm Bill authorizes policies that govern food and agriculture programs. Every five years, Congress reauthorizes the bill. Enoch says policy makers now have the opportunity to make nutrition programs a top priority.

“Congress is starting those conversations right now, which gives advocates and policy makers, all of us really, an open window to rally behind permanent improvements to this program specifically that supports so many Vermonters’ food budgets,” Enoch notes.

Congresswoman Becca Balint outlines the impacts of SNAP in a statement:

The Farm Bill touches every corner of America from family farms to school meal programs. As the Farm Bill gets set to be reauthorized, it is critical that we defend investments in SNAP. Food insecurity should not be the reality of the richest country in the world. Threats to SNAP could devastate millions of families struggling to make ends meet. This Congress, I’ll be focused on ensuring access to food and nutrition is available to any family in need, in Vermont and across the country.

In mid-February, Hunger Free Vermont advocates will be sharing their recommendations for the Farm Bill with delegates, focused on more permanent solutions.