LEWISTON — At Community Concepts, I’ve seen firsthand the struggles children in need face in Androscoggin, Oxford and Franklin counties, and across our state. I’m proud to be part of an organization that helps families afford some of the most basic necessities, like child care and fuel to heat their homes, and connects parents to new job opportunities through workforce development services.

As Congress moves to develop a final farm bill, one of the groups with the most at stake are these same parents and their children. The farm bill, a major piece of legislation that is renewed every five years, funds the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, our nation’s most important anti-hunger program. Despite our country’s long-term bipartisan commitment to preventing hunger, the House has passed a version of the farm bill that cuts SNAP and takes away food from people in our state. Now it’s up to us, and to Maine’s congressional delegation, to ensure that the SNAP provisions in the House farm bill do not become law.

More than 180,000 Maine residents – that’s one out of every seven – use SNAP to help put food on the table, including many of the families with children we work with at Community Concepts. SNAP is also one of the best anti-poverty programs we have, keeping 47,000 Mainers out of poverty, including 16,000 children.

SNAP’s impact on children can last a lifetime. The kids whose families receive SNAP are at lower risk of developmental delays than children from similar low-income families who do not receive food assistance. And one study demonstrated that adults who receive food stamps as children are more likely to graduate from high school and less likely to suffer long-term health issues like obesity and heart disease.

Unfortunately, the version of the farm bill that the U.S. House passed in June would make it more difficult for struggling families with children in our community to make ends meet and cover basic needs like food. The bill takes SNAP away from 2 million Americans, including working families with children, by cutting funding for this crucial program by nearly $19 billion. Flying in the face of evidence about how to get people good-paying jobs, this money would be used instead to create a huge bureaucracy to track the work history of SNAP recipients and to offer job training and education, which, at $30 per person per month, is woefully underfunded.

The House bill also imposes unforgiving penalties that would take away food assistance from those who don’t prove every month that they work enough hours or qualify for an exemption. This “one strike and you’re out” policy would be particularly harmful to low-income working parents with children, who often have low-wage jobs with unstable hours and frequent turnover.

Fortunately, the Senate took a much more constructive approach to SNAP in its version of the farm bill, which passed with strong bipartisan support at the end of June. Not only does the Senate bill protect funding for SNAP, it also strengthens the program by testing new tools to help it run more smoothly and supporting states that are piloting innovative solutions to help SNAP participants find and keep a more stable job.

We thank Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King for their support of this strong, bipartisan bill.

The Senate farm bill invests in our community by protecting SNAP and supporting evidence-based initiatives to help more people find work. The House farm bill does neither; it’s a deeply partisan and harmful proposal that will fail to help people find jobs but is guaranteed to take food assistance from struggling families.

If SNAP is cut, food banks and organizations like ours simply won’t be able to make up the difference. As lawmakers work toward a final version of the farm bill in the coming weeks, it is critical that they recognize the crucial role that SNAP plays for Maine families and communities. I urge members of Maine’s congressional delegation to work with those negotiating the final farm bill to ensure that the bill protects and strengthens SNAP.