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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Groups united to ensure Puerto Rico’s food security

By The Star Staff

The united front of Puerto Rican religious leaders, Bread for the World, and local community groups announced their collaboration Thursday to advocate for the critical importance of national food programs.

This powerful alliance brings together many well-respected organizations such as ASSPEN, American Baptist Home Mission Societies, Catholic Charities USA, Casa Cristiana de Transformación Church, Puerto Rico Chaplain Corps, Knocking Down Giants Ministry, Latino Christian National Network, Puerto Rico Food Security Coalition, NutriendoPR, Hispanic Federation, and ACOMERPR. Together they intend to address the problems of hunger and food security in Puerto Rico by leveraging their collective influence and resources.

As of June, religious leaders and community groups collaborated in advocacy efforts to facilitate the integration of Puerto Rico into the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

This constituency has demonstrated its commitment by hosting meetings with key stakeholders such as Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Resident Commissioner Jennifer González-Colón, and representatives from more than 200 legislative offices. Through these meetings, they have successfully highlighted the challenges Puerto Rico faces in addressing food security and the vital role that SNAP can play in mitigating these issues.

As September 2023 approaches, the farm bill reauthorization has significant implications for Puerto Ricans and their access to vital programs and benefits. The Farm Bill, a comprehensive piece of legislation renewed every five years, covers various agricultural, nutrition assistance, and rural development policies. In the past, this legislation has directly influenced the funding and structure of programs like SNAP, which serves as a crucial lifeline for millions of Americans facing food insecurity. Consequently, the upcoming farm bill reauthorization outcome will determine how essential resources and support will be made available to Puerto Rican communities in need.

A critical issue driving coalition advocacy efforts is the stark disparity in food assistance between Puerto Rico and the continental United States. According to the data, Puerto Ricans pay up to 21% more for food than the average US household while receiving substantially lower levels of assistance. The discrepancy compounds the burden on families struggling with food insecurity in Puerto Rico, where approximately 44.9% of the population lives below the poverty line.

“Addressing this inequality in assistance is crucial to ensure that Puerto Rican residents have access to adequate nutrition and support,” shared Jayson Call, Chaplain with the Puerto Rico Chaplain Corps.

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