Is Your Neighbor Hungry?

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Do you know if your neighbor or the kids down the street are hungry? What about any of the kids in your child’s classroom? Or maybe the friendly older woman on a small fixed income at church?

The thing is we don’t always know who might be hungry, who is struggling with bills and who is food-insecure. They could be old, young, fat, skinny, healthy-looking or not. The may look clean and well-dressed or not. They could live in the ghetto or a nice suburb.

I learned the term “food insecurity” within the past year or so. But I’m no stranger to food insecurity. As a family, I was on welfare and benefited from food stamps (now known as SNAP) for I don’t know how many years as a child.

I’ll save the Why’s and How’s for another time because the reasons don’t really matter.

I remember a time that I went to school hungry and my teacher took me out of the classroom. She brought me to a vending machine and bought me a snack. I sat in the hallway eating it by myself.

I don’t really remember feeling hungry or poor but I guess if a teacher felt compelled to take money out of her own pocket to feed me the signs must have been there.

I remember eating “government cheese” – it was good, but hard to slice!

I remember going to the welfare office and waiting in line with my mom – it was boring!

I remember going to the store for my mom with paper food stamps in hand. As I got older I remember learning to be embarrassed by the funny-colored money.

I remember my mom bringing home lots of small milk cartons from church and freezing them to make them last. I think they were extras (soon to-be-expired) from a daycare that was run on-site or the church ran a food-pantry. I’m not really sure.

I remember seeing my mom cry.

Assistance programs have evolved and changed over the years. For instance, there’s no longer funny-colored money. But the overall issue has not. There are hungry people out there, including MANY children. And until this world in which we lives turns into Utopia, there will always be hungry people out there for one reason or another.

More changes may be coming to SNAP soon and they may not be all for the good. That’s why I shared a bit of my story above and am now asking for your help.

Members of Congress are working to reauthorize the Farm Bill, legislation that provides funding for the SNAP program and for the SNAP education program. Drastic cuts to SNAP are on the table for the Farm Bill.

More than half of all SNAP participants are children, elderly, or disabled. If Congress cuts funding for this poverty-­relieving program, it will affect millions of children and families, leaving them even more food-insecure.

As one of the wealthiest nations in the world, it is our privilege and honor to help feed those who would go hungry otherwise.

Quick Facts:

• 1 in 5 children in America doen’t get enough to eat.

• Nearly 50% of SNAP participants are children.

• More than 46 million Americans – a majority of whom are seniors, children, or people
with disabilities – rely on SNAP to feed their families.

• The average monthly SNAP benefit = $1.48 per meal

• More than two-thirds of the funds in the most recent Farm Bill help feed hungry
kids through Federal Nutrition Programs.

• 280,000 children would lose free school lunches as their eligibility is tied to SNAP status.

• The average income (not counting the SNAP benefit) of families receiving SNAP is less than $9,000 per year.

• A family of 4 making less than $23,000 per year qualifies for SNAP benefits.

• For every SNAP dollar spent, $1.79 is returned to the economy.
SNAP reduced the poverty rate by nearly 8% in 2009.

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