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Walk a Mile in Their Shoes: Trying to Live on $31.50 a Week
Today’s Politico reports:
“Food costs are now forecast to increase this year by a stunning 3.5 percent to 4.5 percent — nearly double the core inflation rate — while the food stamp program that helps more than 44 million Americans is facing a congressional chopping block.”
Father Larry Snyder of Catholic Charities has chosen to walk a mile in the shoes of those depending on $31.50 a week in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to make ends meet. He decided to try living on $31.50 for food for one week. He writes in a blog post that caring for hungry people is scripturally mandated, and by experiencing "tough choices families make to stretch their food budgets and publicly share our journey, we will make their needs more visible and our commitment to change even stronger." After looking at his grocery list, it’s obvious that Father Snyder is in for an unexciting and repetitive week of eating.
SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) is part of the safety net that in tough times expands to keep the most vulnerable from catastrophic hunger. It cannot be emphasized enough that with the highest poverty rate in 17 years, SNAP has kept food on millions of tables, and kept some 1.7 million children sitting at them from poverty.
In my job as an organizer, I get to speak with church leaders to discuss their work in charitable feeding programs. Every church I speak to has said the same thing lately: Need has doubled and we can’t keep up. As Jim Wallis of Sojourners points out in the Politico piece, with only 6 percent of food needs being filled by charities now, a cut in federal funding could not be offset by the work of churches and pantries.
So many important programs that protect our most vulnerable people are under attack as the mandated budget cuts are negotiated in Congress. As Christians we know that budgets are moral documents and the budget cannot be balanced on the backs of poor people, as was proposed in the House-passed bill. We encourage you to walk a mile in the shoes of someone who struggles to put food on their table by joining with other Christians and members of Congress who are Fighting Poverty with Faith. It’s easy to cut a budget line, but much more difficult to cut when you know the feeling of hunger and the faces of the people who depend on these programs.
Every week it seems I hear of another friend who has lost their job, and I think to myself, "There, but for the grace of God, go I."
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