Dear Members of Congress:
We write as the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) concludes a week-long SNAP / Food Stamp Challenge in which we, the church’s national leaders, as well as hundreds of Presbyterians, chose to live on an average SNAP benefit, which nationally is about $30 per person per week. This practice is intended to raise awareness within our community about the dire food insecurity of many of our neighbors.  We realize, of course, that our engaging in this Challenge is a symbolic gesture, but we also believe that it has meaning and capacity for building awareness of the very real need in our communities.  We further recognize that our own reactions to living on SNAP benefit levels for a week – both psychological and physiological – cannot begin to approach the experience of a family that is relying for sustenance on these inadequate, and yet essential benefits.
Even as we learned this lesson, we acknowledge what privilege we have in bringing it to an end, in seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, in returning to our usual diets.  So as we enter this festival of Thanksgiving, we give thanks for food and for all the ways that healthy food is available to each of us.  And we give thanks for SNAP, which prevents so many Americans from falling into severe food insecurity. It is our prayer that we will change our food system so that no one in this wealthy nation will suffer hunger and that each and every person will have enough, not too little and not too much.
Through this SNAP Challenge, we learned in practice what we only previously knew intellectually – that far from needing to be cut, Food Stamp benefits are too low and need to be increased, especially in light of the recent Nov. 1st benefit cliff. So, we urge you to refrain from cutting SNAP, and instead to invest in this program that provides only the most basic assistance to struggling people in some of their darkest hours.
We further understand from partners in ministry that we, the churches that engage in ministries of charity and mercy cannot alone meet the overwhelming need created by cuts to federal safety net programs. Private charity needs public partnership in order to answer our call to feed the hungry, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, care for the sick, and visit those in prison. As earnestly as we try to fill gaps in services left by government spending cuts, we simply do not have the resources or capacity to respond to the growing and monumental need caused by a severe recession, anemic recovery, and systemic inequity.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) further has a long history of commitment to food justice and food system advocacy.  In a letter sent earlier this year, we called for a “comprehensive Farm Bill that ensures access to food for hungry people, provides an ample safety net targeted to those small and mid-sized farmers who most need it, builds up rural communities and their economies, and protects the integrity of God’s creation through robust conservation programs and sustainable agriculture.”
Our nation’s food and farm policies, as embodied in the Farm Bill, impact people and communities from rural America to big cities to developing countries. In the current budget climate, the Farm Bill’s limited resources must be effectively targeted where need is the greatest. And people are hungry. In particular, we urge you to protect SNAP from cuts that will only make it harder for people to make ends meet, that will increase food insecurity, that will leave children hungry.
And as we observe the national festival devoted to giving thanks, we are thankful for functioning government, for leaders who devote their lives to public service, and for your own service to our nation.
Should you have any questions or wish to hear more about our reflections and learnings during the SNAP / Food Stamp Challenge, please contact our Office of Public Witness, Leslie Woods, Representative for Domestic Poverty and Environmental Issues.


Reverend Gradye Parsons
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Reverend Dr. Neal Presa
Moderator of the 220th General Assembly
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Linda Valentine
Executive Director, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)