The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.
So said President Franklin D Roosevelt, over 75 years ago, in his second inaugural address. This idea could not be any more important than now, when the health of millions of children, their families and older adults are in danger.
Last Wednesday, the agriculture committee of the House of Representatives voted to pass dramatic cuts to the Farm Bill. If passed by Congress, the legislation will remove $16.5bn from food and hunger relief programs that directly benefit children, seniors and families.
Approximately 80% of the Farm Bill budget funds the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Snap) – commonly known as food stamps. As 45 million people – one in seven Americans – currently rely on Snap to help feed and nourish themselves and their families, the program provides the first line of defense in our country's hunger relief network.
The proposed cuts will affect between 2 and 3 million Americans, and more than 300,000 people in Texas, where I work. These people are our neighbors, classmates, co-workers, relatives and friends. Make no mistake, these cuts will hurt many families already straining to pay their summer electric bills, rent and gas, making it harder to put food on their tables.
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As almost three in five Snap recipients are children or seniors, the advancement of this legislation is especially troubling as the majority of those who stand to lose Snap benefits are the most vulnerable in our society. The impact will ripple across our country starting in our retirement communities and schools.
More seniors will be forced to choose between medical care and food, or utilities and food. Many families receiving Snap benefits are also eligible for free and reduced lunch. The proposed cuts could also mean lost lunches for hundreds of thousands of children, exacerbating an already intolerable situation.
Here, at the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas, we believe hunger is unacceptable, and urge our lawmakers to figure out a way to balance the budget that doesn't do it off the backs of hungry children, their families and our older adults. (To see how you can help, visit our advocacy page.) It's not too late to help protect the most vulnerable members of our community.
Any other outcome would surely mean that, as a society, we have failed the test Franklin D Roosevelt posed all those years ago.