'Tis the season to give, the saying goes.
Yet all of the charitable food donations in the United States this year combined would not make a dent in proposed cuts to food subsidy programs that threaten at least six million people with worsened hunger.
So said researchers with the Bread for the World Institute in an interview with The Guardian published Monday.
“Virtually every church, synagogue and mosque in the country is now gathering up food and distributing, and all of that work that food banks do comes to 5% of the food that needy people get,” Bread for the World president Reverend David Beckmann told The Guardian, referencing the organization's recent report Ending Hunger in America. “95% comes from school breakfasts, lunches, food stamps and WIC, so Congress can say 'We can cut this programme 5% per cent – no big deal.' But if you cut the national nutrition programmes 5%, you cancel out everything that the charitable system is doing.”
The comments come as further slashes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program are considered in the House, where $39 billion in cuts over the next ten years is up for debate, and the Senate, where a $4 billion slash could be approved. This is in addition to cuts that took effect on November 1 and will amount to $5 billion by the end of the year and $11 billion by 2016. Critics charge that these slashes, which constitute a fraction of the federal budget, will make little difference to tax payers yet devastate the millions who depend on food aid for survival.
Almost half of all people who receive food stamps are children, Forbes reports.
The cuts are under consideration despite 2012 census data, analyzed by the Department of Agriculture, that shows hunger in the United States is stuck at high levels for the fifth year in a row, with 14.5 percent of all U.S. households facing food insecurity in 2012. Poor households, "households with children headed by single women or single men," and African American and Hispanic households hardest hit, according to the USDA.