The Good and the Bad of the New Hunger Numbers
From working late and running out of time to cook, to the familiar family debates of: “no, you pick what to eat,” many of us struggle to figure out dinner each night. But for over 50 million Americans, that struggle comes not from indecision, but rather from an inability to put food on the table throughout the year.
Last Wednesday the USDA released the latest statistics, showing that 1 in 6 Americans suffered from food insecurity in 2011, which marks a slight increase from the previous year. Also of concern: more households were identified in the category of “very low food security”(households that must regularly skip meals). Households with children were nearly twice as likely to experience food insecurity; 16.7 million children lived in such households this past year.
Feeding the hungry is a basic value in Jewish tradition. We learn, “A small bit of bread may be life to the poor; one who deprives them of it sheds blood” (Ben Sira 34:21). These numbers are shocking, but those who are suffering can take some comfort in our collective sharing of “small bits of bread.” Because of this, figures have remained nearly unchanged since 2008, even as the state of the recovery has ebbed and flowed. Even though unemployment has risen, our social service safety nets, too, have risen to the occasion, with programs like SNAP, WIC, and school meals tempering the effects of the recession.
We must continue to support these successful programs, and the overwhelming majority of Americans agree. A recent survey asked: “[T]his year, Congress will consider cutting billions of dollars from the food stamp program in an effort to reduce federal spending. Do you favor cutting food assistance to low-income families and seniors, or do you think that is the wrong way to reduce government spending?” 75 percent responded that this is the wrong way to reduce government spending. On Wednesday the Census will release its 2011 poverty data, so be sure to check back here at RACBlog for an update on this critical issue later this week.
Take action today and tell Congress that we will not stand by while they consider cutting these programs that are both effective and widely popular. These small bits of bread, these chances at life, cannot be abandoned.