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Lincoln, Neb. — 1.16.20 — Today, three senators from Omaha introduced four bills (LBs 1037, 1038, 1039, and 1040) to address the lack of access to healthy, affordable foods for workers, families, and children across Nebraska.
“It’s hard to reconcile the fact that 200,000 Nebraskans struggle with food insecurity when they’re living in America’s breadbasket,” said Senators Hunt, Vargas, and Cavanaugh in a joint statement. “Even in a state with expanses of farmland and ranches, many families are worried about how to feed their kids. Every hungry family, every hungry child is relying on answers from our state government.”
LB1040 from Senator Vargas (District 7) would appropriate money to the Department of Agriculture to manage and grow Double Up Food Bucks, a program that doubles the value of federal nutrition (SNAP or food stamps) benefits spent at participating markets and grocery stores. The Double Up program began in Lincoln in 2017, and has since grown to nine locations and benefited more than 700 families. Double Up is currently managed by Nebraska Extension with help from the Department of Agriculture.
“Double Up Food Bucks has been an incredibly successful program with a huge impact for families and farmers over the past few years. LB1040 will grow that program while helping people bring home more healthy fruits and vegetables and supporting local farmers,” said Senator Vargas.
Senator Hunt’s (District 8) LB1038 would remove SNAP restrictions on an individual with three or more felony convictions for possession or use of a controlled substance if they participate in a substance abuse program. The bill would remove a major barrier to successful reintegration for formerly incarcerated people, while reducing hunger for the individuals and their families that are negatively affected by this restriction. LB1037 would ensure that eligible children aren’t removed from benefits due to someone in the household being disqualified. Under the current SNAP system, if one person in a household is disqualified from participation in the program, the entire family loses access.
“Over 600,000 individuals are released from state and federal prisons every year who face monumental barriers to attaining employment and housing. Restricting access to basic necessities for these populations perpetuates the cycle of poverty and increases rates of recidivism.” said Senator Hunt. “Additionally, Nebraska’s current rules around SNAP qualification exclude children who live in a household with an adult who may not qualify. Children shouldn’t go hungry because our state hasn’t adopted this common sense, compassionate approach.”
LB1039 from Senator Cavanaugh (District 6) would create the Hunger-Free Schools Program, ensuring that every public school student in Nebraska is provided with breakfast and lunch during the school day at no cost to their family. Participating schools will be reimbursed by the Nebraska Department of Education for the total difference between their expenses and federal reimbursement. Schools will also maximize their participation in federal reimbursement programs such as the Community Eligibility Provision, bringing Nebraskans’ tax dollars back to Nebraska.
“With over 80,000 children in Nebraska facing food insecurity, meals at school are one of the most effective tools available to ensure they get the nutrition they need and deserve,” Senator Cavanaugh said. “Studies have shown that well-fed students are well-performing students, receiving better grades and better health. By making these meals freely available to all public school children, regardless of income, we can eliminate needless bureaucracy, better prepare our children for educational success, and let our educational professionals focus on education.”