June 1, 2011

The House Committee on Appropriations approved dramatic cuts to several federal nutrition programs that would eliminate nutrition assistance for hundreds of thousands of low-income seniors, women, infants, and children and cut support for charitable food assistance by over 20 percent.

"The proposed cuts are staggering," said Vicki Escarra, President and CEO of Feeding America."It is not an overstatement to say that the House bill would make it harder for millions of low-income Americans to get enough to eat – Americans who are already struggling just to get by from day to day. These proposed cuts are indefensible. There is no other word for it."

A coalition of 34 national organizations signed a letter circulated by Feeding America urging House Appropriators to reject the cuts to nutrition programs, stating that the"legislation would have a devastating impact on our most vulnerable citizens and erode the foundation of the emergency food network." The letter was signed by a coalition of anti-hunger, faith-based, children, seniors, and other organizations.

"The House proposal would push more people to local charities at the same time it slashes emergency food assistance for food banks, church pantries, and other charitable food providers," Escarra said."Not only will our food banks not be able to meet the increased demand for food assistance if the cuts to nutrition programs go through, we will have to reduce current levels of support for existing clients."

Feeding America is the nation's largest hunger relief organization, providing food to nearly 6 million people across all 50 states every week through 61,000 food pantries, soup kitchens and other emergency feeding facilities. The number of clients served by the Feeding America network has risen 46 percent in the past four years.

"We are doing everything we can to help, but local food banks and pantries are already stretched thin and charity cannot solve the problem alone," Escarra said."Feeding America was already concerned about the prospect of bare shelves later this year due to an expected drop off in federal commodities, and we simply could not meet the increased need in communities across America if Congress approves reductions to federal nutrition assistance programs."

Many struggling families are able to put food on the table only because of the safety net provided by federal nutrition programs – including SNAP, The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), the Commodity Supplement Food Program (CSFP), and the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). More than 40 million Americans live at or below the federal poverty level. One in seven Americans, half of whom are children, is enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) program.

"Members of Congress have an opportunity to reject these harmful cuts with the bill goes to the House floor for a vote later this month," Escarra said.

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