Originally posted in the Vacaville Reporter: Americans don’t always recognize how pervasive hunger is, or that it is a problem where they live. In our communities, it is often hidden by families that don’t want to share their economic struggles. Sometimes it hides behind doors of nice houses with mortgages in default or the heat turned off. Often it goes unseen by those not looking for it.
But we know that Americans in every community are hungry. According to the Food Research and Action Center, 1 in 6 people living in Contra Costa and Solano counties struggle with hunger.
We know that hunger is a challenge, but we also know there is a solution. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — SNAP, or what we used to call food stamps — has been there to help families in need.
As jobs disappeared and wages shrank, SNAP was helped struggling Americans put food on the table. Its responsiveness to unemployment proved it to be one of the most effective safety-net programs during the recent recession.
This program also is working for millions of low-income Americans. The Census Bureau found that SNAP lifted 3.9 million Americans above the poverty line in 2010, including 1.7 million children and 280,000 seniors. SNAP not only lifts millions above the poverty line but, according to this new research, SNAP lessens economic hardships for many other Americans who have the lowest incomes in our nation.
SNAP is a lifeline for families like Henry’s. Henry lost his factory job more than a year ago and with three kids, preschool-age and younger, he hasn’t been able to make ends meet, even with his fiancé working full-time at a bank. With the Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) and the help of SNAP, Henry is better able to provide for his family until he can find work again.
Yet recent legislation and proposals in Congress, including the upcoming Farm Bill, would cut this program.
Let’s be clear that any cut to SNAP is a cut to benefits. For example, the Senate plan for the Farm Bill includes a cut of $4.4 billion over 10 years to SNAP. Put in real terms, that proposal could trigger sizable reductions in monthly SNAP benefits for many households — an estimated 500,000 households a year would lose $90 per month in SNAP benefits.
That’s not an accounting fix. That’s less money for struggling households to purchase food. Congress must reject attempts to balance the budget by taking from those who have the least.
Join our online advocate community at www.foodbankccs.org/advocate to get involved.