Students in the Penn's chapter of the Public Policy Consulting Group are traveling to Washington D.C. to advocate against the Trump administration's proposed budget cuts to the nation's food stamp program.
The group is traveling to the nation's capital on April 12 to meet with Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), and Rep. Robert Brady (D-Philadelphia).
Trump’s proposed cuts will take $213 billion away from the the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that is used by around 44 million people in the United States. Trump proposes to replace the food stamp program with food boxes called "America's Harvest Box," filled with non-perishable foods. SNAP is the sole food source for around 8.5 million families, reported Newsweek.
“The mission is to conduct research on and advocate for policies that affect Penn and the Philly community. In addition, we try to connect Penn's public policy resources and research to policy makers in Washington,” said Public Policy Consulting club member and College sophomore Josh Charap.
The club, which votes on topics to pursue, chose to protest against the proposed budget cuts because it would have such a strong impact on the Philadelphia community.
“SNAP fits into our mission because it is a pressing issue to Philly residents since tens of thousands of Philadelphians receive weekly benefits from the welfare program," Charap said.
According to club President and College sophomore Mark Kim, the club is trying to bring student activism and political discourse to Washington D.C. The club favors issues that are non-partisan or at least not extremely partisan.
“The goal is to advocate for people that are not always represented fairly in the policy-making process," Charap said.
Penn Public Policy Consulting Group members reached out to Penn students who had had positive experiences with SNAP, Kim said. While the club is not detailing specific instances of beneficiaries given privacy concerns, it is bringing policy experts' quotes in support of SNAP to the representatives, including several Penn-affiliated experts.
Johns Hopkins University students founded the Public Policy Consulting Group in 2016. Penn's chapter of the group is fairly new, and this trip will be the second time it is going to Washington D.C. to advocate for a specific policy. Penn Public Policy Consulting Group has previously discussed policies about children’s health insurance and the Iran Nuclear Deal.
Kim said the organization gains access to these congressmen because it has previous connections to them. The group also reaches out to different offices in D.C. to connect with legislators. Members try to have one-on-one conversations with legislators because those pitches tend to be more successful.
So far, the club has spoken with three senators and six representatives.
“[Public Policy Consulting Group] started with a purpose of translating activism in college campuses to tangible policy solutions and changes in Washington D.C.," Kim said. "Ever since, we have taken extreme pride in bringing attention to critical public-interest policy issues that impact millions of Americans."