The nation's leading hunger-relief charities and religious advocates expressed outrage in response to the severe cuts to anti-hunger programs included in the farm bill considered today by the House Agriculture Committee. The bill includes $21 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the nation's largest nutrition assistance program. Bread for the World, Catholic Charities USA, Feeding America, and United Way Worldwide called on Congress to reverse course and restore cuts to SNAP as the farm bill moves forward.
"A vote for this level of cuts is shameless," said David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World."Millions of people will lose food assistance and hundreds of thousands of households will see their benefits cut dramatically at a time when families across the country are struggling with long-term unemployment or reduced wages. Hungry and poor people do not deserve to bear the brunt of our deficit-reduction efforts."
The bill would restrict states' flexibility in how they administer SNAP in coordination with other low-income support programs like heating assistance (LIHEAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). As a result, 2 million individuals would lose their SNAP benefits entirely, 210,000 children would lose access to free school meals, and 850,000 households would see their SNAP benefits cut by an average $90 per month. Feeding America estimates that these cuts would amount to over 8 billion lost meals for struggling families.
"If divided evenly across Feeding America's national network of food banks, every food bank would have to provide an additional 4 million meals each year for the next ten years, and that is just not possible," said Bob Aiken, president and CEO of Feeding America."There is no way that charity would be able to make up the difference. We are already stretched thin meeting sustained high need, and we simply do not have the resources to prevent hunger in all of the families who would be impacted by these cuts."
Food bank demand increased nearly 50 percent from 2006 to 2010, the latest available data. At the same time, 34 percent of Americans admit cutting back on donations to houses of worship, underscoring the importance of the federal role in protecting vulnerable families from hunger. Food benefits from federal nutrition programs totaled $96.9 billion in 2011, compared to an estimated $4.1 billion worth of food distributed by private charity.
"SNAP meets critical needs for low-income working families, seniors, children, and individuals struggling to get by," said Father Larry Snyder, President of Catholic Charities USA."We as a society have a special obligation to consider first the needs of the poor, even as we act through government. The proposed cuts to this vital program put a disproportionate burden on the very people our Catholic tradition teaches us to elevate in our public consciousness."
"Strong communities require public-private partnership," said Steve Taylor, Senior Vice President and Counsel for Policy at United Way Worldwide."Every day local charities see this partnership reflected in the generous support of volunteers and donors, and this value is reflected in Washington through important programs like SNAP. We're all in this together. SNAP and the families it serves must be protected from cuts."
All SNAP households are already slated to have their benefits cut this fall. SNAP benefits average less than $1.50 per person per meal, but on November 1, the typical household of three will lose about $20 to $25 in monthly benefits, increasing hardship for participants and shifting even more need to charitable food providers that are facing high demand and few resources. About 68 percent of food pantries and 42 percent of soup kitchens served by Feeding America's national network of food banks report relying entirely on volunteers and have no paid staff.
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Feeding America is the nationwide network of 200 food banks that leads the fight against hunger in the United States. Together, we provide food to more than 46 million people through 60,000 food pantries and meal programs in communities across America. Feeding America also supports programs that improve food security among the people we serve; educates the public about the problem of hunger; and advocates for legislation that protects people from going hungry. Individuals, charities, businesses and government all have a role in ending hunger. Donate. Volunteer. Advocate. Educate. Together we can solve hunger. Visit www.feedingamerica.org, find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.
Bread for the World (www.bread.org) is a collective Christian voice urging our nation's decision makers to end hunger at home and abroad. By changing policies, programs and conditions that allow hunger and poverty to persist, we provide help and opportunity far beyond the communities where we live.
ABOUT CATHOLIC CHARITIES USA
Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA) is the national office for Catholic Charities agencies nationwide. Catholic Charities USA's members provide help and create hope for more than 10 million people a year regardless of religious, social, or economic backgrounds. To learn more about CCUSA, please visit www.catholiccharitiesusa.org
ABOUT UNITED WAY WORLDWIDE
United Way Worldwide is the leadership and support organization for the network of nearly 1,800 community-based United Ways in 41 countries and territories. It advances the common good, creating opportunities for a better life for all, by focusing on education, income and health. The United Way movement mobilizes millions to action-to give, advocate and volunteer-to improve conditions in their communities. For more information about United Way, please visit: www.unitedway.org.