As President Barack Obama prepares to deliver his annual State of the Union address, Feeding America urges our Commander in Chief, other government leaders, and all of our nation's citizens to consider the urgent state of hunger in America today.
America produces more food than any other country in the world, yet more than 50 million people in our nation live in homes that are identified as food insecure – meaning that they do not always have access to adequate amounts of food to maintain an active, healthy lifestyle, according to data released by the USDA in September 2012.
"The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, commonly referred to as food stamps) is the first line of defense for low-income Americans facing hunger. SNAP and other federal nutrition programs work exactly as they were designed – they provide food to people who might otherwise go hungry," said Bob Aiken, president and CEO of Feeding America."The SNAP program represents only 2 percent of the federal budget, yet it is at serious risk of harmful budget cuts and policy changes. It is important to keep in mind that 76 percent of the households enrolled in the SNAP program include a child, a senior, or someone who is disabled.
"While we understand the challenges facing President Obama and Congress as they work to address the deficit, and make decisions on spending priorities, we urge them to protect programs that help our most vulnerable citizens and neighbors put food on the table," Aiken said.
In addition to the federal nutrition programs, 1 in 8 Americas annually rely on assistance from Feeding America food banks, which are strained under increased need, declines in donations, and volatile food and fuel costs.
Feeding America's research study Hunger in America 2010 found that the number of people served each year by our network of food banks has increased from 25 million in 2005 to 37 million in 2009, a staggering increase of 46 percent in four years, largely due to the recession.
With historically high unemployment and many families scraping by on reduced wages, or part-time hours, the need for food assistance in our country has never been greater.
"We hear heartbreaking stories every day from people who come to the food pantries and soup kitchens served by the Feeding America network. Our food bank in Orlando recently told us a story about an elderly woman who walked nearly a mile to take a public bus to a food pantry and fainted while standing in line; a pantry volunteer gave the woman a ride to her home, which had little furniture and empty cupboards. It's one of many stories our food banks hear on a daily basis," said Aiken.
Hunger not only causes human suffering, it also can have long-term and devastating consequences. Children who are malnourished for even a brief period of time may experience irreversible cognitive and physical impairments. Seniors who do not have access to proper nutrition are at risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, and other age-related illnesses."While there is recent news that the economy is improving, we know that millions of unemployed and underemployed people will continue to face tough times in the months and years to come. In the meantime, we must ensure that all Americans have access to enough nutritious food to feed themselves and their families," Aiken said.
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