Information provided by Feeding America, adapted by Amanda Melara
As our elected leaders in Washington continue to grapple with deficit reduction and make decisions on federal spending priorities, we hope they will remember that the people impacted by those decisions are more important than the numbers on the balance sheet.
Our nation’s economy continues struggling to recover from the worst recession in decades, and families across America are still hurting – from the once comfortable middle class to those just managing to survive. Today, we must rely on federal programs for helping feed those in need. At the Capital Area Food Bank we see this firsthand every day with 1 in 6 of our neighbors, including 1 in 5 local children, facing hunger. While our goal is to provide the community with at least 30 million pounds of food this year –half of which is fresh produce– we could not meet the need without strong federal anti-hunger programs such as TEFAP, WIC, School Meals, and SNAP.
Fortunately, SNAP (formerly known as Food Stamps) has responded quickly and effectively during the recession to help ensure that families, children and seniors have enough to eat. Much attention has been given lately to the fact that participation has grown significantly in recent years, but one need only look at unemployment to understand why. SNAP participation grew by 53% from 2006 to 2010 while the ranks of the unemployed grew by 110% over the same period.
SNAP benefits are responsive, targeted, and temporary. The average amount of time a participant spends on SNAP is 9 months and 84% of all benefits go to households with a child, a senior citizen or an individual with a disability. Benefits are not overly generous—nationally the average household gets a monthly benefit of $287 or about $1.49 per person per meal.
There are a lot of myths circulating about SNAP and the people who receive benefits, myths, such as abuse, that further stigmatize the program. The fact is that examples of abuse are rare and only account for about 1% of total benefits. For every allegation of fraud, there are stories of heartbreaking need; of parents who have lost their jobs, seniors who have lost a life-time of savings, or exhausted by medical costs, people who never thought they would need a helping hand but now have nowhere else to turn.
Food is a basic human right, and alleviating hunger has long been an issue on which both Republicans and Democrats could agree. Investing in hunger relief makes sense fiscally. Hunger increases health care costs, lowers worker productivity, harms children’s development and diminishes their educational achievements.
The Capital Area Food Bank, along with our local and national partners, urges our nation’s leaders to work together to protect and strengthen anti-hunger programs. We also ask our local community members to contact their congressional representatives and tell their stories of struggle, hunger, and the importance of these programs.