I believe theologian and human rights activist Desmond Tutu, summed it up best when he reminded the world, “When people were hungry, Jesus didn’t say, ‘Now is that political, or social?’ He said, ‘I feed you.’ Because the good news to a hungry person is bread.”
In last week’s report, Hunger in the Inland Region, we noted that despite a growing economy, no less than ten percent of inland area residents experience food insecurity. Their despair has now collided with some dispassionate members of a U.S. Congress determined to strip food assistance from millions of hungry Americans, including thousands right here in the Inland Empire.
In the current draft of the 2018 Farm Bill, funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) would place eligibility limits on some aspects of the program and eliminate other provisions like “Heat and Eat” that provide food subsidies to low income families with high energy bills. Contrary to the traditional bi-partisan approach to Farm Bill funding, the Republican Party decided to go it alone this year and excluded Democrats from the process of drafting the legislation.
The aggressive attack on food subsidies is contrary to the need as evidenced by data provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture which showed 82 percent of all SNAP benefits go to households that include a child, an elderly person, or a non-elderly individual with a disability.
This begs the question: Why are food subsidies being attacked by members of a Congress where 41 percent of those in the House and 66 percent of Senators are millionaires? What can these representatives truly understand about the substance and impact of hunger and poverty on the lives of those who know it intimately when many appear more interested in currying favor with their wealthy benefactors, than addressing the needs of their moderate to low income constituents? Why is nutrition assistance for the nation’s most vulnerable subjected to the political whims of the privileged?
In mid-April, the House Committee on Agriculture passed the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (H.R.2) which included funding cuts to SNAP on a partisan vote of 26-20. Now, as the bill awaits a vote by the full House, it is time to decide where we stand as neighbors of the vulnerable and as voters.
House representatives from the inland region must ask themselves who they were elected to represent—citizens in a state with the nation’s highest Supplemental Poverty Rate and a region where at least 10 percent of its residents suffer from food insecurity? Or, were they elected to do the blind bidding of a party, that in my estimation, has lost its moral compass on this and a number of other important issues.
Let your representative know where you stand on H.R. 2, by calling (202) 224-3121. To remain silent while children, elderly and the disabled may be left to forage for food in a nation of unmitigated wealth is to be complicit in this political travesty. People must be allowed to feed themselves in dignity—the right to food is a human right.
This is just my opinion. I’m keeping it real.