by Jesse Epp-Fransen
Feeding the hungry and caring for the vulnerable is a central tenet of the Good News. God provides manna to the Israelites in the desert, and Jesus declares that he is the Bread of Life. And yet hunger continues to be a problem for many families in the United States.
That was the conclusion of a report released in September by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The results of the report are that approximately 15% of households were food insecure at some point during 2011 and 5.7% were considered to have very low food security. This represents essentially no change in food insecurity with a slight increase in very low food security.
While food insecure represents households having difficulty getting enough food, very low food security represents that point at which meals were skipped or portions reduced because not enough food was able to be procured.
The largest federal food and nutrition programs are SNAP (food stamps), free or reduced-price school lunches, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). These programs are a key part of the safety net that help to alleviate hunger, and particularly hunger amongst children, but they are often at risk of being cut by policymakers.
In the ongoing farm bill debates the question is not whether to cut SNAP, but by how much. Yet 10% of households with children were food insecure at times during 2011. Young children in particular are increasingly affected by household food insecurity.
It has been suggested by some in Congress that churches are able to meet the needs of the hungry in the U.S. Churches play an important role in addressing hunger. Church-run food pantries and soup kitchens are often the difference between hunger and nutrition, but many of these programs, particularly food pantries, receive significant funding or food from the federal government. According to Bread for the World each congregation would need to spend an additional $50,000 each year for the next 10 years to cover the proposed cuts to SNAP.
Hunger is already at a level that should be considered unacceptable in a country with so much. People of faith have led with their actions by working to address hunger in a hands-on way, and now we must also work with our voices and support national efforts to feed the hungry. Our faith gives us the moral imperative to work to end hunger and when we work together, as churches and as a nation, we have the tools and resources to significantly decrease hunger.
Please let Congress know that you value a just farm bill that will protect the most vulnerable.