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"For I was hungry and you gave me food"(Mt 25:35). As Catholics, we are called to respect and uphold each individual’s right to life and dignity. Food insecurity, which is defined as the inability to meet basic food needs because of a lack of financial resource, diminishes an individual’s ability to lead a dignified life – and the fact that it exists in our rich nation is unconscionable.

In essence, food insecurity is hunger. Hunger is widespread in the United States, affecting 17 million children and 32 million adults, according to USDA statistics. The problem has only been made worse by the economic downturn, which made passing child nutrition legislation even more urgent. We are pleased that key reauthorization legislation passed in December 2010, but there is still much more to be done.

Without federal programs that provide immediate food assistance, many families and children would fall victim to devastating hunger and demoralizing circumstances. Though federal programs are undoubtedly beneficial, the fact that 17 million children are food insecure betrays the inadequacy of these programs. Effective legislation is needed to ensure that food insecurity does not remain a threat to our nation, that our farmers are able to produce safe and nutritious food, and that all our children are healthy.

As food insecurity is a pressing issue for so many Americans, it is essential that the federal budget includes enough funding to support these programs. Budgets proposed this fiscal year have suggested significant cuts to social safety net programs, which would prevent families from accessing their basic needs. NETWORK supports a federal budget that seeks to decrease the deficit and promote growth while protecting the nation’s most vulnerable.