Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

Charities Concerned About Potential SNAP Cuts

Photo: Lunch service at a soup kitchen. (Courtesy of Participant Media)       

You need food pantries, and you need SNAP, and you need school lunch programs. When you cut one, you’re cutting the whole netCommunity FoodBank of New Jersey's Diane Riley

Think Progress recently ran a piece on the reaction of charities around the country to the House Agriculture Committee's farm bill, which would slash more than $20 billion from the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps). In short, the people who carry out the important work of food banks, food pantries, and soup kitchens are nervous about potential cuts.

“Given how long the recession lasted and the alarming rates of poverty, SNAP for many families has become not just a safety net, but a way of surviving,” said Mid-Ohio Foodbank vice president of public affairs, Marilyn Tomasi, in an article cited by Think Progress. 

In a recent op-ed piece, Feeding America president and CEO Bob Aiken said that the House farm bill cuts, if enacted, would amount to more than 8 billion lost meals for struggling families, by his organization's estimation.

"If divided evenly across Feeding America’s national network of food banks, every food bank would need to provide an additional 4 million meals each year for the next ten years, and that is just not possible," Aiken wrote. "There is no way that charity would be able to make up the difference. We are already stretched thin meeting sustained high need in the wake of the recession. We simply do not have the resources to prevent hunger for the millions of people who would be impacted by these cuts—the low-income working families, seniors, children, and individuals struggling to get by."

The idea that charities will make up for cuts to SNAP and other federal nutrition programs is popular—and erroneous. Charities, food banks, food pantries provide an invaluable service, but they can't address hunger alone. One in 24 bags of food assistance comes from charitable organizations; federal nutrition programs, such as SNAP, provide the rest.

In the documentary A Place at the Table, Pastor Bob Wilson, one of the film's subjects, talks about how the economic downturn in the United States has stretches his Colorado church's food pantry to its limits (This weekend, Pastor Bob and his wife Michaelene, will participate in a panel at Bread for the World's National Gathering to talk about their food pantry, and the increasing demand in their community). 

"Every Wednesday we go down and get a trailer full of food from Food Bank of the Rockies," Wilson said in the film. "The problem that we run into in small towns is that the income level has gone down, the jobs are minimal, the second and third generation people are having to leave the area to find work.

"Ten years ago or so when we started this, my wife and I had purchased an old Suburban and I remember driving into the food bank and being excited about backing up and filling that Suburban with 10 to 15 boxes of food and thinking we were really making a difference in our community," Wilson continued.  "And after a year and a half we bought a little single axel trailer that we could put two pallets of food in and we thought we had really arrived, that we could certainly meet the needs of the community with two pallets of food.  And four years ago a gentleman from our church donated this trailer and now we’re doing four pallets twice a week and it’s amazing how the need has increased over the 10 years."

Charities can't, and shouldn’t have to, do it alone—government must do its part. Contact your members of Congress and tell them to protect SNAP and other vital food assistance programs from devastating cuts.


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