This morning, Casey and I attended a briefing about child nutrition reauthorization that was sponsored by Feeding America, a network of over 200 food banks that operate throughout the country. I have to say, it was probably the most disheartening 45 minutes I have experienced during my time as an intern at NETWORK. The briefing consisted of a panel of three food bank directors: one from Tucson, AZ, one from East Haven, CT, and one from southeastern Michigan. These individuals came from diverse areas of the U.S. but all shared the same problem and concern – they need more money to run their programs and ensure enough children are getting the proper nutritious meals they need. Sitting in the briefing, my emotions went back and forth between sadness because so many thousands of children in the U.S. go without food every day, and anger at the fact that members of Congress would vote for laws that literally take food out of children’s mouths. As Bill Carnegie of the Community Food Bank of Tucson said, “We are fighting a war to get the children fed.”
The briefing was held to draw attention to the discrepancies between the nutrition bill passed by the Senate (S. 3307), and the bill that is currently in the House (H.R. 5504). In addition to not being as comprehensive as the House bill, the Senate bill will offset the cost of improving Child Nutrition provisions by cutting funding from SNAP (food stamps). These cuts work out to be $50 less per month for recipients. Just to get some perspective, that’s about what I spend for a week and a half of groceries. I cannot begin to imagine being forced to try and feed a family on such a budget. The SNAP cuts would not solve the problem of hunger in the U.S. either. It simply shifts who will be hungry and when.
Feeding America food banks service hundreds of thousands of people across the country, but they are only able to do so because of private donations, and in the current economy those donations are not always reliable. Each food bank director told heartbreaking stories about teachers and school administrators who are forced to choose at the end of each week which students were the most in need of the food backpacks the food banks made available to the schools. How are people supposed to choose the students to give backpacks to when all of them are hungry and all of them need the food?
After I read over the summaries of each bill proposed by the houses of Congress, I believed the bill from the House of Representatives was the stronger bill and the one the children in this country need. Now that I have heard from those who directly serve the hungry children of America, I am surer than ever that passing the House bill will be a step in the right direction to end child hunger.