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Pittsburgh residents speak their mind on SNAP, 2023 farm bill

People sit around a table during a discussion at the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.
Addison Diehl
90.5 WESA
Community members gathered with U.S. Rep. Summer Lee to discuss the 2023 farm bill at the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank in Duquesne, Pa. on Aug. 21, 2023.

Changes could be coming to government food assistance programs with the Sept. 30 expiration of the 2018 farm bill, and U.S. Rep. Summer Lee is asking Pittsburgh residents to be part of the conversation.

The farm bill is federal legislation renewed every 5 years that authorizes food and agriculture policies. The Supplemental Nutrition Program, or SNAP, is one of the programs the bill affects. SNAP currently feeds 1.9 million Pennsylvania families.

Rep. Lee met with food bank volunteers, community leaders, and nearby residents at the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank to discuss changes they would like to see in the new bill.

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“This bill offers us an opportunity to combat hunger and alleviate food insecurity,” Lee said. “As your congresswoman, I stand firmly in support of a strong, well funded farm bill that benefits families, farmers and businesses right here in this district in our region.”

Among attendants was Pittsburgh resident Madeline Dorsey, a senior who receives SNAP benefits. She says she relies on the foodbank for meals, but diabetes creates nutritional challenges.

“I’m getting a whole lot of canned goods that I can't eat because it’s so full of sodium. I would like to be able to see more SNAP benefits to where I could buy the products that I need to stay healthy,” Dorsey said.

Dorsey’s was not the only request for better food options; others also cited the lack of fresh produce available through assistance programs and the extremely limited accommodation for dietary restrictions.

Community leaders also expressed the need for increased funding of independent food banks, pointing to shortages of volunteer staff and resources.

A draft of the 2023 farm bill is expected to be released sometime in September.

Addison is a Junior at Point Park University, majoring in Broadcast Reporting. She is the News Director for Point Park's campus station, U-View Television and reports on the show Daybreak. In her free time, she enjoys reading, cooking, and spending time with her cat, Soup.