Hunger grows at time of thanks

Added November 6th, 2013 by Gilda Z. Jacobs | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Gilda Z. Jacobs
From the League’s First Tuesday newsletter
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It’s November and time to look forward to Thanksgiving — a treasured American holiday, symbolized by the bounty of the pilgrim harvest. For my family, that means turkey, stuffing and all the trimmings.

For too many in Michigan, however, Thanksgiving will be a reminder of the ongoing struggle to put enough food on the table.

Nearly one in every seven Michigan households reported difficulty affording food at some point last year. And a plan before Congress, if adopted, will worsen hunger and jeopardize Michigan’s fragile economic recovery as well.

There are nearly 1.8 million in Michigan who receive help from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, formerly known as food stamps. The majority – nearly three of every four – are children, low-income seniors and those with disabilities. About 69,000 are veterans.

Unfortunately, the U.S. House of Representatives has passed a spending plan for SNAP that will dramatically restrict the ability to address hunger in Michigan, cutting nearly $40 billion nationwide over the next decade.

The House plan would mean more than 200,000 Michigan adults would lose food assistance immediately. These are jobless, childless adults who are living on very low incomes – averaging $2,500 a year. Four in 10 are women and one third are over 40 years old.

Another part of the House plan would push Michigan and other states to end assistance for some families where the breadwinners want to work but cannot find jobs or opportunities to build skills.

The U.S. Senate plan, led by Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., makes some cuts but does not contain the extremely harsh cuts in the House plan. The competing plans are now in conference committee where differences will be worked out. It is important for Sen. Stabenow to stand strong against the damaging House plan.

SNAP is doing what it was designed to do as more help is needed during recessionary times. As Michigan and the country continue to slowly recover from the worst economy most of us have ever experienced, the need will diminish and food assistance will go down.

We must remember, too, that these pending cuts are on top of the Nov. 1 cuts to food assistance as modest increases passed during the Great Recession expired. For Michigan, this means $183 million less in food assistance over the next year. For households, it cuts more than $400 a year in food for a family of four or the equivalent of 21 meals a month.

SNAP is the nation’s most effective anti-hunger program; it has helped Michigan families and the economy during a long, tough downturn. It’s time for our Michigan representatives in Congress to stand up for those who will already be facing the holidays with a little less food to eat.

— Gilda Z. Jacobs

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