In our work with the Montana Food Bank Network, we have the privilege of working with nearly 150 food pantries and other partner agencies throughout the state. We see firsthand the important role that donated food plays in keeping tens of thousands of Montanans from going hungry. We are constantly reminded how important a can of soup, a carton of milk, or a box of cereal can be to those who have fallen on hard times. We are humbled by the important work done every day by our network of partners.

However, we also understand that Montana’s charitable food system cannot meet the need by itself – nor is it intended to. SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, is our state’s most important anti-hunger program. SNAP helps 120,000 Montanans put food on the table every month. Almost 70 percent of participants are in families with children, 30 percent are in households with seniors or individuals with disabilities, and 41 percent are in working households.

We hear frequently from people like Karen, who is working hard to provide for her son but struggling to make ends meet. Karen works for the school, which means she loses her main source of income when school is out. Over the summer, Karen utilizes SNAP to make sure that her son has the food he needs to grow, learn, and thrive. Karen shares that “The impact of SNAP is huge, but it isn’t easy to ask for help. Being on SNAP and coming to the pantry are two of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. But I won’t let my son go without.”

The benefits of SNAP reach far beyond Karen’s family and other participants to also support our local economy. Montana businesses, from grocery stores to farmers, see over $170 million pumped into our economy every year thanks to SNAP, creating jobs and opportunity for our neighbors.

As Congress works to draft the federal budget, we hope that Senator Tester, Senator Daines, and Representative Gianforte understand how important SNAP is to our communities and our state. President Trump’s budget, released in late May, proposes cutting $193 billion (more than 25 percent) from SNAP over the next 10 years. Cuts of this magnitude would be devastating, leaving a gap that our charitable food system could not begin to fill. As Congress moves forward, we call on each of our Congressional members to reject any budget that includes deep cuts or structural changes to SNAP.

We are proud of the role that food pantries play when Montanans hit hard times. Together with SNAP and our other anti-hunger programs, we have helped to provide food to our neighbors when they need it most. Cuts to SNAP would reverse the progress we have made, leaving more children, seniors, veterans, low-wage workers, individuals with disabilities, and many other Montanans hungry. Please urge Montana’s Congressional members to take a stand for their constituents by protecting SNAP and other poverty-reduction programs from cuts or structural changes in the federal budget.

– Gayle Carlson, CEO, Montana Food Bank Network

Luke Jackson, MFBN Board Chair, Missoula

Minkie Medora, MFBN Board Member, Missoula

Tracy Worley, MFBN Board Member, Missoula

Paul Miller, MFBN Board Member, Missoula

Carol Allen, MFBN Board Member, Missoula

Mark Dvarishkis, MFBN Board Member, Missoula

Ross Tillman, Former MFBN Board Chair, Missoula

Mary Lehman, MFBN Board Member, Great Falls

Hank Hudson, MFBN Board Member, Helena