The statistics are staggering. In our nation, nearly 46 million people live in poverty. In my congressional district, in Alameda County, 173,000 people live in poverty.
Poverty and hunger go hand in hand. SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly called food stamps, is an essential lifeline for a growing number of people, especially children.
At a time when the United States should be creating opportunities for all Americans, the House Republicans proposed cutting $40 billion from SNAP in the Farm Bill.
Republicans also proposed crippling smart and targeted programs that allow states to efficiently deliver nutrition assistance to the neediest.
If that heartless bill ever became law, at least 4 million to 6 million low-income children, seniors, and families would be cut off from this crucial economic lifeline. More families would be pushed into poverty.
Instead of gutting SNAP, we should be strengthening it! I am fighting those heartless cuts and working with other progressives to protect our nation’s critical safety net against hunger.
Besides helping fight poverty, SNAP is an important stimulus for the nation's economy. Every $1 invested in SNAP benefits generates $1.70 in economic activity. When families are struggling to find decent paying jobs in this tough economy, this investment is particularly vital.
Nearly half of the SNAP enrollees are children, and the program helps feed roughly one in three children in America.
A recent documentary called “A Place at the Table” sheds light on some of these issues. I hosted a free screening in June in Oakland to help raise awareness about hunger and food issues. Ironically our country produces enough food but there is food insecurity in every county in the United States.
When I was a single mom in the 1970s, food stamps were a bridge over troubled waters. I would not be where I am today without that vital safety net.
In recent years, I’ve participated several times in the SNAP Challenge, in which one lives on $4.50 a day, the food budget of a food stamp recipient. The Challenge is difficult to sustain, fattening due to cheap processed food and unhealthy. I challenge more Members of Congress to see how difficult it is to eat cheaply and healthfully. It boggles the mind that Tea Party Republicans want to cut SNAP benefits during these difficult economic times.
I am very proud that Oakland is home to some excellent food justice programs, bringing nutritious food to under-served neighborhoods.
We can and must do more at the local, state and national levels. No American, and certainly no child, should go to bed hungry. Let us not increase hunger in America.