Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

Sen. Pat Toomey: The Need in Pennsylvania is Greater Than Ever

111025_Toomey[Editors’ note: For the next few weeks, we’ll be running a series of posts on the Bread Blog about each member of the Super Committee. If you live in Sen. Pat Toomey’s state (Pennsylvania) please share this blog post with your local family and friends, and message Sen. Toomey on his Facebook page or through Twitter.]

For Bob Shearn, the reality of the recession hit home when his wife recently found out that she would be laid off in the middle of November. “It’s very scary,” Shearn says. “Most families today rely on two incomes, not to live a life of ease, but simply to pay the bills. With the increased cost of food, it’s getting harder and harder to make ends meet.”

Shearn lives in Wyoming, PA with his family and serves as a campus minister at King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, PA. Every day, he sees how his community is struggling to survive the recession. As a member of his parish and an activist for hunger and justice issues, Shearn sees how direct-service organizations are being stretched to the limit. “Soup kitchens and clothing stock piles are in greater and greater demand. These little signs show me that the need is greater than ever.”

Recent Census Bureau numbers on Pennsylvania confirm Shearn’s observations. In 2010, more than one in seven families in Pennsylvania lived below the poverty line. Tragically, 20.9 percent of children in the state were at risk of hunger in 2009 (compared to 16.6 percent nationwide). Considering these dire numbers—and the devastation in Pennsylvania from Hurricane Irene this past August—it’s clear that now is not the time to cut entitlement programs such as SNAP (formerly food stamps), the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), and the Child Tax Credit (CTC), says Shearn. “Where else can these people turn for help to keep them afloat? They don’t have jobs, and if the services provided by soup kitchens and the like are being stretched to the max, I don’t know where people will turn. To cut these programs would be nothing short of a disaster,” he says.

This is why Shearn and others from Pennsylvania are asking Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) to ensure that the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction does not cut these important programs in an attempt to balance the federal budget. Shearn believes that the most vulnerable members of society should have as valuable a voice as the wealthiest citizens of our nation—indeed, that is the essence of democracy. “It’s our government,” Shearn insists. “We so glibly talk about, ‘we the people,’ but this is the people’s money. And we have an obligation as a country, and as a nation, to care for one another—especially those who are unable to care for themselves.”

Exercise democracy now by joining your voice with Bob Shearn and other Pennsylvanians to ask Sen. Toomey to form a circle of protection around programs for hungry and poor people; to continue funding for domestic and international programs; and to support those living in his state who are receiving pink slips, looking for jobs, standing in lines at soup kitchens, and doing their best to provide for their families.

Call Sen. Pat Toomey today at 1-800-826-3688.

Official photo of Sen. Pat Toomey.


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Creating a circle of protection around these proven effective programs is the morally right thing to do for his constituents. In the Pittsburgh area over 160,000 people are receiving SNAP benefits to help put food on the family table. Over 16,000 households are participating in WIC. Senator Toomey, be a hero to the hungry and the poor. Protect SNAP, WIC and other vital programs during this budget process. So many seniors, children and struggling families are counting on you.

In Philadelphia, more than one-quarter of the population and one-third of the children live below the federal poverty level. These folks rely on SNAP and WIC to survive. We cannot ask them to shoulder more of the burden of the budget-balancing process. Rather, we must protect the most vulnerable among us by continuing programs that allow those in poverty to feed themselves and their children. Please, do not abandon the many poor and hungry people throughout our state and our nation.

The needs of those living in poverty in north central PA are very real. In spite of the expansion of the gas industry, unemployment has risen in Lycoming County each of the last six months. The recent flooding has devastated the already hard pressed housing situation. At the Son Light House in Muncy - an ecumenical and community supported food pantry - the numbers of families coming for food continue to be high. Son Light House is trying to cope with the cuts to state and federal resources to such programs. A recent shipment of TEFAP (federal food program) was 50% less than before. Food pantries will not be able to offset any cuts to either SNAP or WIC. Young families are already asking for help especially with infant formula. We are all called to love our neighbors - especially those most in need.

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