Statement Attributable to Diana Aviv, CEO of Feeding America
“Yesterday the House Task Force on Poverty, Opportunity and Upward Mobility released a paper outlining its plan to address poverty.
“Ending poverty and ensuring opportunity and mobility are issues critical to our nation. While conventional wisdom holds that poverty is limited to a small number of people who have been impoverished for many years, the reality is far more complex. As our nation’s experience during the Great Recession and its aftermath illustrated, for many families, poverty is often only a job loss, divorce, health crisis or car repair away.
“For many Americans, working full time still does not provide adequate resources to cover all essential needs.
“Millions of families are making impossible tradeoffs every month between paying for food, rent, transportation or health care. America can and must do better.
“We commend Speaker Ryan and the members of the task force for recognizing the importance of these issues. We welcome a national conversation and a robust debate on the provisions included in the white paper.
“Some recommendations, like improving access to summer and after-school meals for low-income children by streamlining program requirements and allowing flexibility from the congregate site requirement in rural and hard to reach areas, have a history of bipartisan support and should be adopted. Other provisions are shortsighted and harmful. They would make it harder for people who have fallen on hard times to get back on their feet, and for children from low-income families to get the nutrition they need to grow, thrive and learn.
“To be successful, efforts to address hunger and poverty must strengthen policies and invest further in programs that have a proven record of effectiveness. They must avoid repeating past policy experiments that have not achieved their intended results.
“A large and growing body of research demonstrates that federal nutrition programs are working successfully to reduce food insecurity and help lift families out of poverty. Numerous recent studies have also documented the serious consequences of food insecurity, particularly for children. Children who are inadequately nourished are more likely to be in poor health, experience developmental delays and often perform poorly in school.
“Programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), school breakfast and lunch, WIC, and summer meals are smart investments that pay long-lasting dividends for the recipients themselves and for our nation.
“Summer is the often hungriest time of year for the 18 million children who have free and reduced-price meals during the school year but who do not have access to a meal program during the summer months. Feeding America appreciates that the House plan recommends important ways to improve access to meals during the summer months for children. These program improvements have received bipartisan support and should be included in congressional efforts to enhance child nutrition programs.
“We continue to call on Congress to pass a strong, bipartisan child nutrition bill that protects and strengthens these programs.
“While we can all agree that a good job is the best pathway out of hunger and poverty, the reality is that such jobs remain out of reach for many low-income people. Many are working, but unable to make ends meet. Finding an adequate job is particularly challenging for individuals with physical or mental health issues, limited skills or education, or those who live in areas with limited transportation options.
“Work requirements for SNAP or other safety-net programs must be accompanied by guaranteed access to effective work supports, including training and skills programs, for adults who are able to work, and not simply a mechanism for restricting benefits.
“Unfortunately, current work requirements in programs like SNAP often function more as a punishment, rather than a real pathway to employment. The focus should be on strengthening employment and training programs and ensuring that critical supports, such as quality child care and transportation, are available for people able to work.
“While we appreciate the task force members’ recognition of the often insurmountable hurdles facing low-income people who are navigating and accessing various types of assistance, the solution is not to block grant programs. It is to be expected that during economic downturns, more people will access these essential entitlement programs. And conversely as the economy improves and job opportunities increase, program enrollment declines.
“We firmly believe that the serious problem of hunger requires that we maintain our national commitment that all people should have access to the food and nutrition resources they need to live healthy lives and to grow, learn and thrive, whether they live in Minnesota or Maine.
“We can end hunger and poverty in our nation. But it will require bipartisan collaboration, leadership and thoughtful policy solutions. As efforts move forward, we invite members of Congress to visit their local food bank, talk with program operators in their communities and meet with low-income families who are experiencing hunger and poverty.”
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About Feeding America
Feeding America® is the largest hunger-relief organization in the United States. Through a network of 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries and meal programs, we provide meals to more than 40 million people each year. Feeding America also supports programs that prevent food waste and 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. Visit www.feedingamerica.org, find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.