Advocates lobby to save hunger programs from budget ax

September 8, 2011

WASHINGTON (RNS) Anti-hunger advocates are racing to save federal
programs that feed needy families from being automatically slashed if
Congress can't agree on a deficit reduction plan this fall.

As Congress resumes deficit-reduction talks this month, advocates
for the poor worry that programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition
Assistance Program (SNAP) will suffer drastic cuts and hurt families
that are already struggling.

One in five Americans receives SNAP benefits.

"Despite major gains made for hungry and poor people in 2010,
millions of households are still struggling to put food on the table,"
said Rev. David Beckmann, president of the ecumenical anti-hunger group
Bread for the World.

Congress's Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction -- commonly
known as the "Super Committee" -- must agree on deficit reduction
measures by Nov. 23 or automatic across-the-board cuts will be
implemented.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported Wednesday (Sept. 7) that
59 percent of all "food-insecure" households in 2010 participated in at
least one of the three largest nutrition assistance programs.

USDA also reports increased participation in these programs in
recent years due to high unemployment.

USDA data show that 14.5 percent of U.S. households suffered from
food insecurity in 2010, a figure that's been virtually unchanged for
the past three years.

"The fact that the overall figures remain unchanged but SNAP
participation is at an all-time high speaks to the necessity of
safety-net programs," added Beckman. "The Bible calls on us to protect
the `least of these.'"