One of New Jersey’s largest food banks is eyeing congressional efforts to cut two million Americans from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) with concern. While proponents of the cuts often argue that food banks and other charitable food distribution operations will step into the breach as government shrinks its aid to hungry Americans, officials at the Community FoodBank of New Jersey say that’s not how the safety net works.
“You need food pantries, and you need SNAP, and you need school lunch programs. When you cut one, you’re cutting the whole net,” Community FoodBank’s Diane Riley told NJ.com. The interconnectedness of anti-hunger programs means that SNAP cuts will knock over 200,000 low-income schoolchildren off of the free lunch program. And charities like Community FoodBank, which already serves over 900,000 New Jersey residents per year through a network of partner organizations around the state, are “already struggling to keep up with the demand” even with SNAP funding at its current level.
Local food charities in Ohio and Colorado echoed Riley’s point. Amy Pezzani, Executive Director of Colorado’s Food Bank for Larimer County, said the House bill “would add 4 million meals to the table of each of the 200 or so local food banks in the Feeding America network every year,” leaving individual county food banks to scrounge up a further $1 million each. That money isn’t there, according to charity leaders. Writing at TheGrio.com last week, Feeding America CEO Bob Aiken explained that the same recession that spiked demand at food banks also took a bite out of the charitable giving on which they depend: “34 percent of Americans admit cutting back on donations” between 2006-2010.
The cuts, contained in the House’s draft of the Farm Bill, would only be the latest example of this congress balancing the budget on the backs of the neediest. From Meals on Wheels programs to disadvantaged schools reliant on federal funds to public defenders for accused criminals unable to afford attorneys, the ongoing cuts due to sequestration are falling hardest on the poor.