May 26, 2011

Statement Attributable to Vicki Escarra, President and CEO of Feeding America:

"The House Committee on Appropriations has proposed 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. 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.

"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. 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. We currently provide food to nearly 6 million people across all 50 states every week through 61,000 food pantries, soup kitchens and other emergency feeding facilities. We are doing everything we can to help, but charity cannot solve the problem alone.

"Local food banks and pantries are already stretched thin. Demand has risen 46 percent in the past four years, and the 3 billion pounds of food we distributed last year was not enough to help everyone in need. Feeding America was already concerned about the prospect of bare shelves this year without more funds and food to do our work. We simply cannot meet the need in communities across America with significant reductions to federal nutrition assistance programs.

These proposed cuts are severe and would lead to an increase in hunger. While we agree that our nation needs to get its fiscal house in order, we should not balance the budget on the backs of the poor and vulnerable

"Consider a few simple facts: 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.

"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).

"Congress is considering cuts that would reduce critical funding for all of these programs, putting vulnerable families at risk and eroding the safety net.

"Consider as well the face of hunger in America: I think of Joe, of Ft. Smith, Arkansas, a man of few words who fought in Vietnam as a teenager, worked at an auto plant in Detroit until it closed more than a decade ago, and now works 30 hours a week for minimum wage. At the age of 60 he earns $11,310 a year. He relies on his local food pantry for nearly all of his meals. What will we tell him when there is no more food, because TEFAP has been cut by 50 percent,"Thanks for serving your country, but if you're hungry, you're on your own, we can't help you anymore?"

"I think of Lucy in Hamilton, Ohio. She gets a box of food staples delivered to her house once a month through the CSFP program. This box of food is desperately needed because she lives alone on an income of $949 a month. Lucy can't go to the grocery store or look for a job. She is 101 years old. In 1928, when she was 19, a popular campaign slogan promised to 'put a chicken in every pot.' But if CSFP is cut by the $38 million that has been proposed, we may not be able to give Mary so much as a can of beans."

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