Anore and I traveled to Washington, D.C. at the end of February for the annual Anti-Hunger Policy Conference, sponsored by our national partners the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) and Feeding America. Well over 1,000 advocates committed to ending hunger from across the country came together to learn from experts and one another. Vermont had a strong representation, with partners from the Vermont Foodbank, the health care community, Vermont Law School, and others in attendance with us. Anore presented the findings from our recent study with the University of Vermont  on the impact universal school meals is having and shared updates on how we are successfully helping more Vermont children access nutrition programs. We were able to get the latest information about the Trump administration’s harmful proposed changes to the SNAP (known as 3SquaresVT here in Vermont) program and strategize with other advocates on ways to defeat this devastating proposal.

Celebrating successful advocacy is just as important as strategizing for the future, and collectively we were able to take some time to celebrate the passage of a strong Farm Bill at the end of 2018 and a successful campaign to demonstrate public opposition to proposed changes what would harm immigrant’s access to programs like SNAP. These two successes are evidence that our advocacy works, and we left the conference feeling invigorated and well-armed with the knowledge and strategies we need to keep up our work back in Vermont.

The big highlight of our trip — in addition to seeing the first tulips poking their way up from the ground — was our meetings on Capitol Hill with our representatives and their staff. We were able to spend time with both Senator Sanders and Congressman Welch, and have in-depth meetings with their staffers, along with staff from Senator Leahy’s office. We should all feel proud of the dedication our delegation brings to their work in DC and their commitment to making sure all Vermonters have access to what they need, including food. We discussed the growing understanding of how many college students are struggling with hunger, opportunities to highlight the strength of 3SquaresVT,  ways that Congress can help expand access to universal school meals in rural states like Vermont, and more. We know that there will be both exciting opportunities to expand food access and fights to protect programs like SNAP coming throughout the year. We, and our Senators and Congressman, are aligned and ready for it all.