Coalition for Food Security calls on US Congress for more funding
The Coalition for Food Security Puerto Rico has called on US Congress to provide an additional $1 billion in nutrition aid funds to American citizens residing in Puerto Rico.
The new appropriation will address a benefits cliff resulting from the loss of significant aid provided by Congress in 2021, the organization stated.
Under federal legislation, Puerto Rico receives nutrition funds through the Nutrition Assistance Program (NAP), a capped block grant that provides significantly reduced monthly benefits to NAP participants on the island.
In contrast, the states, Guam, and US Virgin Islands participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Program (SNAP), a needs-based program which can respond to demographic shifts, poverty levels and economic stagnation. SNAP beneficiaries receive higher monthly benefits and have access to Disaster SNAP.
“American citizens residing in Puerto Rico continue to receive disparate treatment under the NAP program. There is no parity in nutrition funding for Puerto Rico versus the states and other territories,” said Lillian Rodriguez-Lopez, spokeswoman for the Coalition for Food Security Puerto Rico.
“The $1 billion dollars are critical to staving off food insecurity due to a benefits cliff in July 2022. We can rectify these circumstances and the recurring need for special appropriations by transitioning Puerto Rico into SNAP,” she said. “The passage of a new Farm Bill in 2023 is an immediate opportunity to do so.”
Launched in 2018, the Coalition for Food Security Puerto Rico supports efforts for equitable federal nutrition aid to Puerto Rico. The Coalition is multi-sectorial with more than 80 organizations representing the private industry, nonprofits, and think-tanks working in the US mainland and Puerto Rico.
The Coalition engages in bi-partisan initiatives to fight food insecurity for the citizens of Puerto Rico.
“Food insecurity is on the rise globally and the forces that have affected food production and distribution have affected Puerto Rico,” said Chamber of Marketing, Industry and Food Distribution Vice President Manuel Reyes.
“The food sector and retailers are diligently focused on ensuring the availability of quality and affordable foods to the residents in Puerto Rico but there are economic forces that are beyond all our control,” said the spokesman for the group known as MIDA.
“This new appropriation allows the island to address the compounding effects of COVID-19, inflation and food supply challenges. The right solution is to transition Puerto Rico into SNAP next year,” Reyes said.
Meanwhile, Charlotte Gossett-Navarro, principal director of the Hispanic Federation in Puerto Rico said the demand for parity presented to the United States Congress goes beyond a budgetary allocation.
“Our focus is to ensure that all people living in Puerto Rico have adequate access to nutritious food and a better quality of life. This is an issue of human dignity that Congress must address immediately and permanently,” she said.