Deficit reduction is vital to our country’s long-term economic prosperity and security, but that doesn’t mean it can be undertaken without regard to hunger across our nation. The House of Representatives recently approved a farm bill that would cut food assistance to nation’s most vulnerable citizens by nearly $40 billion.
As president and CEO of the Lowcountry Food Bank, I confront the reality of hunger every day. Consider the facts: A 2012 report from the Food Research and Action Center ranks South Carolina 11th in the nation in “food hardship.” The food-insecurity rate in our state (18.6 percent) is significantly higher than the national average (16.4 percent), and more than a quarter (27.4 percent) of the state’s children risk hunger on a daily basis, according to Feeding America.
South Carolina is eighth on the Meals on Wheels Association of America’s list of senior hunger states. In 2012, the LCFB partnered with approximately 280 food pantries, soup kitchens, after-school programs, low-income senior centers and shelters to distribute 18.6 million pounds of food to 211,360 individuals in the 10 coastal counties who were at risk of hunger.
Under the proposed legislation, millions of struggling Americans would see their food assistance cut or eliminated at a time when all SNAP (food stamp) participants are already scheduled to receive a benefit cut this November. Some people point to the significant work that food banks do to suggest that hunger is best solved by charities at the community level. Let me be the first to say that charities cannot do it alone.
Together, the proposed and scheduled SNAP cuts would result in nearly 3.4 billion lost meals for low-income families in 2014. That exceeds the total number of meals distributed annually by Feeding America’s entire network of over 200 food banks across the country. Organizations such as the LCFB would be hard-pressed to make up the difference.
Feeding the most vulnerable members of our society — including children under 18, who comprise 32 percent of the Lowcountry Food Bank’s clients, and seniors, who comprise 17 percent — is a moral imperative. Every day we see this value reflected in the generous support of our volunteers and donors.
Hunger is a national problem and it requires a national solution — one that starts with a strong federal commitment to safety-net programs like SNAP. Members of Congress will have a chance to vote again on the farm bill later this fall. On behalf of our friends and neighbors who struggle with hunger on a daily basis, we urge those legislators representing the great state of South Carolina to vote against cuts to SNAP and other essential food-assistance initiatives that alleviate hunger among thousands of people in South Carolina.
Patricia S. Walker
President and CEO
Lowcountry Food Bank