Second Harvest North Central Food Bank, a member of Feeding America, appreciates President Obama’s State of the Union Address acknowledgement of the challenges facing low-income families and of the importance of jobs and opportunity.
While we agree that a good-paying job and a strong economy are the best solution to poverty, we also believe that we have a responsibility to protect families from hunger when they fall on hard times.
Every day, we see the heart-wrenching tradeoffs that low-income families are forced to make. Here in north central Minnesota, more than 28,000 people live in homes classified as food insecure, meaning they do not always have access to adequate amounts of food to maintain an active, healthy lifestyle. To understand that point, you only need to make a visit to your local food bank, church pantry, soup kitchen, or other agencies in our community helping to put food on the table for struggling Minnesotans.
Federal nutrition programs, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, commonly referred to as food stamps), The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), WIC and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program( CSFP) are crucial to helping families put food on the table so they do not have to choose between filling their cupboards or paying their rent.
While some would like to believe that hunger is a problem better solved by charity, the truth is as important as charity is, charity cannot do it alone. We also need a strong federal safety net. Speaking from the frontlines, we are barely able to keep up with existing need, and there is no way we could make up the difference if federal anti-hunger programs are cut, as some in Washington have proposed. If you have any doubt that need is real, take a look at these numbers:
• More than 1 in 5 children lives in a family that doesn’t always know how it will put food on the table.
• 46 percent of food bank client households report having to choose between paying for utilities or heating fuel and buying food.
• 39 percent of food bank client households are forced to choose between food and rent or a mortgage.
• 3 of every 4 SNAP households includes a child, senior, or disabled person, and half of all SNAP participants are children.
• The average SNAP benefit is less than $1.50 per person, per meal. For senior households, it is only $1.23.
That is why Second Harvest North Central Food Bank is calling on government leaders from both parties to work together to provide economic opportunity for all Americans and to maintain strong anti-hunger programs to support vulnerable families on their path to self-sufficiency. Please join us.