On behalf of the Lowcountry Food Bank (LCFB), I recently urged our legislators to oppose cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other hunger-relief initiatives. SNAP is the foundation of our national nutritional safety net. Cutting SNAP benefits would significantly increase hunger and poverty among South Carolina’s most vulnerable residents.

The LCFB is the second largest food bank in South Carolina, and hunger is a daily reality for thousands of our clients. In 2012 South Carolina ranked 11th in the nation in “food hardship.” The food-insecurity rate in the state (18.8 percent) is significantly higher than the national average (14.5 percent). And South Carolina is No. 2 on the Meals on Wheels list of “Top 10 Senior Hunger States.”

Over the past five years the number of people relying on the LCFB has increased by 90 percent. In 2012, the LCFB and partners distributed 19 million pounds of food to 211,360 food-insecure children, families, and seniors.

SNAP provides essential short-term support for vulnerable citizens seeking financial stability. Moreover, SNAP is not a long-term crutch: Half of all new participants transition out of the program within nine months.

Finally, SNAP enables people to buy food, boosting the local economy. The U.S. Department of Agriculture calculates that every $5 in new SNAP benefits generates $9 in total community spending.

The Farm Bill passed by the U.S. Senate would trigger significant reductions in monthly SNAP benefits. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), an estimated 500,000 households a year would lose $90 per month in benefits.

Cuts being proposed by the House are even more aggressive. They would remove two million people from the program altogether and cause more than 200,000 low-income children to lose access to school meals.

According to the Food Research and Action Center, the American public vigorously opposes such cuts to the SNAP program. Support for food stamps crosses generational lines: 67 percent of both young voters (under age 35) and seniors reject food stamp cuts.

Federal deficit reduction is a priority and rightly so — a balanced strategy to reduce the deficit is vital to the nation’s long-term economic prosperity. However, as Congress and the president work together to craft policies that spur economic recovery, please protect SNAP benefits by contacting your legislators. Protecting the poor and hungry is a moral obligation, not a partisan negotiating point. On behalf of the LCFB’s 211,360 clients across the 10 coastal counties of South Carolina, I thank you for advocating for our friends and neighbors who struggle with hunger on a daily basis.

Please protect the nutritional safety net and prevent cuts to SNAP and other essential hunger-relief initiatives that alleviate hunger among thousands of people in South Carolina.

PATRICIA S. WALKER

President and CEO, Lowcountry Food Bank

Azalea Drive

Charleston