As Vermonters turn on their furnaces and prepare for Thanksgiving, the Trump administration is once again taking aim at some of our most vulnerable neighbors. The White House and USDA recently announced their third attempt in the past 12 months to go around Congress and take food away from millions of working families, people with disabilities and older Americans in need. A new proposed rule change would cut SNAP (known in Vermont as 3SquaresVT) benefits by $4.5 billion over five years, including a yearly cut of over $25 million in Vermont.

If enacted, this proposal would be devastating for thousands of Vermonters who rely on 3SquaresVT to put enough food on the table to stay healthy. According to estimates from Vermont’s Department for Children and Families, if this proposal goes into effect, over 26,000 Vermont households (or 68% of recipients) would see an average cut of $82 in their monthly food benefits. The proposal would disproportionately impact people with disabilities and older adults — populations for whom proper nutrition is especially essential to health and wellness — impacting roughly 80% of these 3SquaresVT households.

Hunger Free Vermont, the Vermont Foodbank and Capstone Community Action call on Vermonters to stand with us to oppose this latest attack, by writing and sending comments to USDA by Dec. 2.

We are joining together to ask for your help because we know from daily experience what these cuts would mean for our state. Capstone Community Action hosts Central Vermont’s largest food shelf, where over 5,000 Vermonters are assisted annually with fresh produce and ready-to-eat meals. 3SquaresVT benefits are already too low to buy enough healthy food, a key reason why the need for supplemental food assistance is growing. A reduction of $82 per month represents the loss of a week’s worth of food, and will force thousands of Vermont households into impossible decisions about whether to feed themselves and their families or cover other critical needs such as heat, rent and medical care. Already, 1 in 7 children and 1 in 10 Vermonters overall are living with hunger. We cannot allow this shameful situation to worsen.

Private charity simply cannot compensate for the breadth of the impact of these proposed cuts. Last year, the Vermont Foodbank provided 11.7 million pounds of food to people throughout Vermont. And yet, the charitable food system in Vermont and throughout the U.S. cannot even begin to make up the difference for families who would lose their food budget through these harsh cuts to 3SquaresVT. The Vermont Foodbank is part of Feeding America’s national network of 200 food banks. For each meal that this network provides to people in need, SNAP provides nine.

As Thanksgiving approaches, we should give thanks for 3SquaresVT. For over 40 years, SNAP/3SquaresVT has been our nation’s first line of defense against hunger. This program works: it provides, on average, over 70,000 Vermonters and 40 million Americans with money to spend on food in grocery stores and farmers’ markets each month. It is proven to reduce hunger, help lift people out of poverty, and deliver positive short- and long-term health, education and employment outcomes. It helps us all by bringing over $100 million into our economy each year.

There is still time to fight this proposal, but we need your help. Writing and sending a comment to USDA by Dec. 2 is the most effective action you can take to keep people from losing their money for food, and the more comments we submit, the stronger we are together. Please visit www.hungerfreevt.org/protect3squaresvt to write and send a public comment opposing this cut to 3SquaresVT, and then ask everyone you know to do the same before Dec. 2.

With 40% of Vermonters unable to handle an unplanned $1,000 expense, any of us may need to turn to 3SquaresVT for help accessing food. Make writing your comment an act of thanks for collective programs like 3SquaresVT that are there for all of us when we need them. Now more than ever, we must all make our voices heard to protect the nutrition program that keeps thousands of Vermonters and millions of Americans from going hungry.

If you feel unable to meet your food needs, 3SquaresVT is a great resource that we can all defend and strengthen! To learn if you’re eligible, text VFBSNAP to 85511 or call 1-855-855-6181.

Anore Horton is the executive director for Hunger Free Vermont. Sue Minter is the executive director for Capstone Community Action. John Sayles is the CEO for Vermont Foodbank.

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