Feeding America Urges Congress to Protect the Nation's Poor and Hungry

April 13, 2011

Vicki Escarra, the president and CEO of Feeding America, sent a letter to the House of Representatives on Tuesday, April 12, urging members to protect the essential food and nutrition assistance programs that provide a literal life-line for millions of struggling families in our nation.

Feeding America is the nation's largest hunger relief organization, supplying food and groceries to more than 37 million Americans each year through a network of more than 200 food banks that serve the entire country

Escarra is urging the Congress to vote"no" on the House Concurrent Resolution on the Budget for Fiscal Year 2012.

The letter, provided in full below, comes as a reaction to proposed provisions in the resolution that would block grant the Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program (SNAP) and cut the SNAP program by $127 billion over 10 years. A cut of this size would have a devastating impact on low-income Americans.

"We agree that it is essential to address our nation's long-term fiscal challenges, and we recognize that tough choices must be made to reduce the deficit and stabilize our growing national debt. However, as the bipartisan Deficit Commission noted, ensuring a robust safety net for those who need it most should be a guiding principle. In keeping with that principle, we urge you to protect programs essential to our most vulnerable citizens, like SNAP," wrote Escarra.

A list of Feeding America network members can be found at http://feedingamerica.org/foodbank-results.aspx

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April 12, 2011

Dear Representative:

On behalf of Feeding America's network of more than 200 food banks serving 37 million people in all fifty states through over 61,000 local food assistance agencies, I write to express our deep concerns with the House Concurrent Resolution on the Budget for Fiscal Year 2012, particularly provisions to block grant the Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program (SNAP) and to cut SNAP spending by $127 billion over 10 years, impacting benefits for millions of people. Simply put these and other provisions would weaken safety net programs for low-income families and lead to an increase in hunger in America.

We agree that it is essential to address our nation's long-term fiscal challenges, and we recognize that tough choices must be made to reduce the deficit and stabilize our growing national debt. However, as the bipartisan Deficit Commission noted, ensuring a robust safety net for those who need it most should be a guiding principle. In keeping with that principle, we urge you to protect programs essential to our most vulnerable citizens like SNAP.

The need for food assistance has increased dramatically during the prolonged and severe recession. Hunger hits every county in America, with over 50 million people facing food insecurity, according to the latest USDA statistics. Millions of workers have lost their jobs, their homes and have seen their families' economic security slip away, and many of those who have been able to find new employment still need assistance feeding their families as they don't have the same earning power as before the recession. With unemployment still hovering around 9 percent nationally, that need is expected to continue to remain high.

SNAP helps put food on the table for more than 40 million low-income people each month and puts money into local economies. Three-quarters of SNAP benefits go to families with children and nearly a third of benefits go to households with senior citizens or people with disabilities. SNAP benefits quickly reach families and communities in need and recipients are highly likely to spend the money quickly, with almost 80 percent of benefits redeemed within two weeks of receipt and 97 percent spent within a month. Many economists view SNAP as one of the most effective forms of economic stimulus during an economic downturn.

One of the strongest features of the SNAP program is its ability to respond quickly to changes in need, such as rising unemployment, helping to cushion some of the blow for vulnerable individuals and families. Enrollment increases during economic downturns and then falls as fiscal conditions improve and need declines, which the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office predicts will occur in the coming years. Converting SNAP to a block grant, capping funding and imposing additional work requirements would weaken the program significantly and eliminate SNAP's ability to adjust and meet demand as our economy fluctuates or disasters occur and need increases.

Fixed block grant funding also provides no room to improve participation rates and is, in fact, designed to discourage states from increasing participation in the program. While SNAP has made steady improvement in participation rates over the last several years, only about two-thirds of those eligible are served. Constraining the ability to improve participation among eligible populations with low enrollment, like Hispanics and seniors, would set back efforts to reduce hunger in communities across America.

In addition to the harmful changes to SNAP, the House Concurrent Resolution also includes spending caps and cuts that would shrink federal spending to about 20 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2015 and to 14.75 percent of GDP by 2050- the lowest level since 1951. We believe that these arbitrary caps would inevitably lead to cuts and structural changes to programs designed to support low income families, like SNAP, and urge a more balanced approach to controlling our nation's financial future.

As you work to address the serious fiscal challenges facing our nation, we urge you to protect the essential food and nutrition assistance programs on which so many struggling families depend and vote no on the House Concurrent Resolution on the Budget for Fiscal Year 2012.

Sincerely,

Vicki Escarra, President and CEO
Feeding America


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