Weeping for Hungry Families
When I was a new minister, I served a UU congregation in a small Southern town that, on the surface, was a popular weekend tourist destination: a place to go gold panning, visit the burgeoning wineries, grab a bite on the historic square.
But in the back “hollers,” the vestiges of hard scrabble Appalachia remained and remains, with children—I heard and came to know—who were more often than not too cold (because heating bills went unpaid) in the mountain winters to make it up for school. There were church charities and a community “helping place” to help fill the gap between inconsistent and low wage paychecks and need. But it was not enough in a reliable way to alleviate the suffering—or the pull up by your bootstraps shame—that dogged the lives of these poor rural households.
In the middle of farm country, it was the federal Farm Bill and the food stamps or SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) contained within it that made significant difference in staving off hunger. Currently, 70 percent of SNAP participants are in families with children, children like those who lived too invisibly in Lumpkin County, Georgia.
This longstanding national commitment to what the organization Faith in Public Life declares is “a shared moral responsibility to ensure that no one in the United States goes hungry” is now under partisan attack, particularly devastating low income working families, and a high percentage of these single women with children.
The proposed bill cuts SNAP participants’ benefits by more than $17 million and diverts much of that money, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), to “a scheme of ineffective work programs and unforgiving penalties.” The legislation would take food away from households (for example, those with children over 6 years old) who don’t prove every month that they work enough hours or qualify for an underfunded program to help find jobs. This, in an economy where stable employment and regular hours are becoming less the norm. And of course, childcare assistance is not provided.
The CBPP estimates that this bill, if it becomes law, will take away or cut SNAP benefits (ie. food) from more than one million families with more than 2 million people. They project that the proposed Farm Bill cuts mean there will be 13.1 billion fewer meals provided under SNAP in the next ten years.
This shift in policy and these cuts come on the heels of a $1.9 trillion tax cut bill, where safety net programs for poor people, disabled people, and elderly people are targeted as sources of Congressional budget cutting to cover the cost.
There is dignity in human work, but harsh and unsupported requirements that preference work over the essential human need to have access to food on the table are cruel. They are in direct conflict with our UU first principle of affirming the inherent worth and dignity of every person.
For women, for their children, for all of our families no matter how they are constructed, we must defeat this 2018 Farm Bill as it currently is written. The UUWF joins Faith in Public Life and other religious and secular groups in saying that these SNAP cuts and new requirements are dangerous and unacceptable.
To contact your House of Representatives member, Faith in Public Life’s phone line will connect you to their home district or their DC office: 1-844-390-0619. For more information on the effects of the bill, visit the CBPP website.