A case worker who has worked her entire career feeding the hungry in America recently told us:
"When I was a girl and hesitated to eat my spinach, my eagled-eyed mother would notice and say, ' What about all the starving children in China? Think of them and be grateful you have enough to eat. Finish your spinach.' Like so many other middle-class Americans, I believed hungry children lived in China, India, or Africa, not in America. I believed that until I went into social work at the largest food bank in Pennsylvania. That opened my eyes.
Food Insecurity - A Big Problem
Food insecurity is defined by the US Department of Agriculture as "multiple indications of disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake." Feeding America, a national nonprofit, projects that 42 million people, including 13 million children, may experience food insecurity this year. Let's just stop the social work jargon for a moment and call it what it is: hunger, plain and simple. 42 million people in America are hungry. That is an astounding unbelievable statistic to most Americans.
"The Federal Government cares, that's who. Too many people blame everything on the Federal Government and rarely recognize the great work that the government does on behalf of our vulnerable populations," our social worker told us. "The SNAP program paid 42 million Americans $121/month up until this year when the Biden Administration increased the benefit by $36/month, the largest increase in food stamp benefits in the program's history. The increase alone will cost the American taxpayer $20 billion. Most Americans have no idea how many of their neighbors and their children would go hungry were it not for federal assistance because respectful working families try to hide the fact that they need help "
The U.S. Department of Agriculture
In a recent interview, Tom Vilsack, the Secretary of Agriculture (the Department that oversees the food stamp program) described the people who are receiving this assistance. "Eight-one percent of SNAP beneficiaries are either individuals who are part of a working family, a person with a severe disability, or a senior citizen living on a fixed income. Only 19% are unemployed.”
When asked how the Agriculture Department determines the benefits, Secretary Vilsack explained:
"Rather than trying to figure out precisely what struggling families were actually purchasing, we asked the question, ‘What would a family - a cost-conscious family - purchase in the grocery store that would provide healthy meals for their family?’ We believe that, along with the dietary guidelines, this benefit increase will result in folks being able to purchase more fruits and vegetables, more proteins. At the end of the day, that will improve health outcomes for children and improve their achievement in school. Kids who aren't hungry are better leaners."
Strengthening the American Family
Secretary Vilsack summed up the focus and intent of the SNAP program like this:
"Many low-income working families have been struggling and stressed by a variety of activities and issues in their home, whether it's childcare cost or food or college expense or health care. And being able to put together a package that basically addresses those stresses - a summer EBT program, for example, - that provides additional nourishment for those kids during the summer who are on free lunch during school and assistance for childcare facilities to be able to provide more nutritious foods - all of that is designed to strengthen the American family."
"All the years I have worked to alleviate the hunger I discovered among the American working class, I have listened to my neighbors and family members complain about the federal government. Either they think they are doing too much for the needy or they think every program is wasteful and inefficient. But they have never actually seen hunger up close or what it can do to the children of the working class. I think it’s time that we all support the struggles of the American working-class family and our government’s efforts to help them.”
For additional information on snap, pandemic assistance, grants or disaster resources please visit the USDA website
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