OPINION: Fight against food insecurity


Maurice Jones 

Food insecurity is more than just having access to food. Graphic by Mars Nevada/the Gateway

If you live in Omaha and your state senator is Tony Vargas, Megan Hunt or Machaela Cavanaugh, just know that they are doing what they promised before getting elected to the legislature: working to get good policies passed. Between the three senators, four bills were introduced to help address issues of food insecurity across our state. Let’s be very clear, food insecurity is not a partisan issue—it affects us the same way, whether you are black or white, a Democrat or Republican.

The four bills introduced by the trio of senators will strengthen existing programs and broaden services to certain individuals who previously under existing law did not meet certain eligibility criteria. LB1040, introduced by Senator Vargas, would strengthen and help grow Double Up Food Bucks which is a homegrown program that we should be proud of as Nebraskans. It doubles the value of SNAP benefits, aka food stamps, that can be spent at local markets and grocery stores. This bill will be a great benefit to those who need fresh foods for their families and to farming communities, as well.

Senator Hunt, thank you for giving people second chances. We all have made bad mistakes in our lives. Just imagine for a minute if, for your entire life, you were never forgiven for a mistake that you made. LB1038 gives a second chance to individuals that probably want to make things right for themselves. For example, this bill would remove restrictions on an individual with three or more felony convictions for possession or use of a controlled substance if they participate in a substance abuse program. If we, as a society, truly wish to reduce recidivism and put individuals on a path to success, this is the kind of policy this state needs.

Let’s face it, this bill is not just about giving people second chances, but it also prevents the suffering of children who are negatively affected by this restriction. Children should not have to suffer because of the bad decisions of their parents—that is just wrong and not American. LB1037, another bill introduced by Senator Hunt, would make it so that children are never removed from benefits due to someone in the household not meeting eligibility criteria. This bill needs to pass because, like I said, children are innocent and should be able to go to bed at night or wake up in the morning with food in their stomachs.

LB1039 from Senator Cavanaugh is great because it addresses what happens when poor families across our state can’t afford to pay for their child’s lunch or breakfast while at school. So, what do we do about this problem? Senator Cavanaugh has the solution—the Hunger-Free Schools Program. This bill is intended for individuals who can’t afford breakfast and lunch during the school day. However, under the program, every public school student in Nebraska would be provided with breakfast and lunch, at no cost to their family. This is a great idea, as it puts all the children on a level playing field and no one becomes a charity project.

The people of Nebraska are unique in that we care about our neighbors. We can see this through the recent floods that devastated communities all across our state, from rural farming communities to city folks. People’s livelihoods were destroyed, but because of our strong community, they were not completely left behind. Thousands of Nebraskans need our help again, so please call your senators and urge them to support these pieces of legislation. Click here to find your senator.