In the days leading up to the 2018 midterm elections, we at the Campus Kitchen at St. Lawrence University brought awareness of the US Farm Bill and its implications for food insecurity to our campus and the local community. We did this by writing a petition to send to our New York legislators, as well as the Chairs of the House and Senate Committees on Agriculture.
This was my first time drafting a petition, and I really enjoyed being able to learn about the logistics of food assistance programs and the impacts within my state. Our petition specifically calls for the preservation of funding for SNAP (formerly known as Food Stamps) and FINI, a nutrition incentive program which enables farmers’ markets and corner stores to accept SNAP-EBT as payment. In writing this petition, I found it crucial to be specific about which programs are most imperative to our community. Lawmakers will respond better to a petition that is explicit and thorough.
We knew that a high number of signatories would be very important, due to the amount of correspondence congressional offices receive every day. Because of this, we selected change.org as our platform, as it provides the most public and interactive interface of any alternative (ie. Google Forms or paper petitions). Though it was written with NY’s 21st district in mind, using this site would allow people across the country to take action with us. We shared our petition’s link via Facebook and Instagram, through our email list, through other student organizations on campus, and with the help of interested faculty.
Most importantly, we have not stopped sharing this petition, even several weeks later. Our message, though urgent (the current Farm Bill expires on January 1, 2019) will only be strengthened by the addition of voices to our message. In the next few weeks, as we hope to arrive at our target of 250 signatures, we will also deliver a hard copy of our petition in person to our House Representative’s district office.
The most important things I learned from this process were (1) the availability of legislative solutions to food insecurity and (2) the importance of clear and accessible information for hunger fighters!
Check out our petition here:
Shannon Hickey is a senior at St. Lawrence University and is on the Leadership Team of the Campus Kitchen at SLAW.