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Keep Food Stamp Benefits Strong

Keep Food Stamp Benefits Strong

Rabbi Michael Namath, Program Director at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, spoke this morning at a press conference hosted by Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, regarding the moral imperative to keep the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program strong. The full text of his remarks follows:

Good morning. I am Rabbi Michael Namath, the Program Director at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

In the Jewish tradition, certain numbers are associated with special meaning. Eighteen is particularly noteworthy: It is associated with “chai,” with life.

So what does it mean that 1 out of 2 children will participate in SNAP before their 18th birthday?  What does it say about the life of our nation and the lives of our children?

It says what we know from our own experiences and the experiences of our friends and neighbors.  It says that our country is struggling with the effects of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.  It says that too many children are in homes that are food insecure. And it says that without the SNAP program, too many American children would be waking up hungry, going to school hungry, and going to bed hungry.

Fighting hunger is the challenge of our time and how we meet this challenge, more than most, will determine our shared future. Without SNAP benefits that help sustain them, our children cannot learn in school or grow into healthy and productive adults.  Without SNAP benefits that help sustain them, mothers will be undernourished as they face the day ahead looking for work.  Without SNAP benefits that sustain them, fathers will be fighting the pangs of hunger as they work long hours for too little pay.

The prophet Ezekiel refers to "the shame of famine" (see Ezekiel 36:30). What is this shame? Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel helps us understand: “The hungry shouldn't be ashamed for dying of hunger. Others should be. It is the only disease for which there is a certain cure."

The book of Leviticus reminds us that we are to leave the corners of our fields unharvested, to provide for “the poor person and the stranger” (Leviticus 19:9-10), I, like many Americans do not have a field or a farm. So I have to think a little more creatively about how the lessons and inspiration of Leviticus apply today. The answer is clear:  We may not all have a farm, but we do have a Farm Bill – and it must continue to include the SNAP program.

Ensuring a robust SNAP program has never been more vital, not just to the 48 million Americans who are food insecure, not just to the families who depend on SNAP, but to every family and individual who wants to make sure that our country is as strong and prepared for our future as we can be.

That is why I am proud to join you here today, as a rabbi, a father and as an American.  Together, we can ensure the SNAP program remains a vital part of the fabric of our social safety net, strengthening and sustaining life itself. Let us do our part to end the shame of hunger.

Published: 2/28/2012

Categories: Social Justice
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