BARRE (AP) -- U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy urged Congress on Monday to block proposed cuts to the federal food stamp program.

During a meeting in Barre, Leahy and Gov. Peter Shumlin, Democrats, spoke of proposed cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that are part of the farm bill being considered by Congress.

In Vermont, the program is known as 3 Squares Vermont. Leahy said it "helps Vermonters of every demographic put food on their tables."

"Parents have told me that they ignore their own hunger to ensure their kids are fed and that they do not know how they would cope if benefits are cut further," Leahy said at the offices of the Central Vermont Community Action Council.

Since the program began a half-century ago, there hasn’t been a greater need for food assistance than now in the aftermath of the Great Recession, Leahy said.

Last month, the federal food stamp program was cut by $36 a month for a family four. And negotiations over the farm bill could cut food stamp benefits even more.

Leahy also is pushing a program to encourage donations to food banks by proposing a bill that would allow businesses to receive tax deductions for food donations.