The Common Good

Food Assistance: A Helping Hand or a Poker Chip?

Food assistance programs have been helping millions of people get through the recession. With poverty remaining at record high levels, we should be grateful that these resources are available to protect families from hunger.

Unfortunately, some of our nation’s elected officials see it differently. New legislation (H.R 6518) introduced by Congressman Paul Broun and members of the Republican Study Committee targets some of the very programs designed to protect the most poor and vulnerable. Under the proposed legislation, six food programs administered by the federal government would be combined into a single block grant to states. 

Does that sound like Washington slang? What it means is that spending on food programs would be dramatically reduced, administration of these programs would be shifted to state governors, and benefit level would likely vary from state to state. Programs such as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) and Emergency Food Assistance (TEFAP) would be threatened by this legislation.

In their statement, the co-sponsors of the bill say, “Washington has to get serious about unchecked entitlement growth…This legislation also rolls back spending to pre-recession levels.”

While the economy has certainly improved since the recession hit, nobody would claim we have returned to the economic growth seen prior to the financial meltdown. To cut these programs now would be disastrous for many of our neighbors who depend on them to get back on their feet.

Let’s be honest, these programs are not a major source of budget deficits, but they are an easy target for those who want to be seen as serious on spending but don’t want to really want to find the sort of compromise that would address our nation’s budget issues in a bipartisan, comprehensive, and sustainable way.

The faith community has a moral obligation to speak up for our brothers and sisters who need a little extra help to make ends meet during this tough economic time, and not allow their well-being to be just one more political chip in the budget debate.

Janelle Tupper is Campaigns Assistant for Sojourners.

Photo credit: Micha Klootwijk/Shutterstock

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