In the Kentucky town of Hazel Green last month, cars and trucks lined up for a mile, sometimes waiting nine hours for the local food bank to open. "From the front to the back of the line," wrote the Washington Post, "the sea of despair and hardship along this desolate Kentucky highway foreshadowed what may be in store for millions of Americans."
Here's why: During the pandemic, Washington significantly increased benefits under the food stamp program, officially known as SNAP. Last year, Kentucky was one of 18 states to declare the national health emergency over and slash those benefits back to pre-pandemic levels. On March 1, the other 32 states were obligated to follow suit, meaning more than 30 million Americans in those states will now face the same hardships that drove those folks to line up for free food in Hazel Green.
On average, individuals will get about $90 less a month, and some households will lose $250 a month or more. The typical benefit will now shrink to about $6 a day per person, and many families, experts warn, are about to plunge over a "hunger cliff."
"We are bracing, and our agencies, member food banks, food pantries and soup kitchens are not prepared for what is about to hit them," Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Food Banks, told the Post. "This reduction, and end of the public health emergency, could not be coming at a worse time."
That's because the food stamp reductions don't come in isolation. Inflation increases pressure on family budgets -- and emergency feeding programs. Other pandemic-era programs that helped to alleviate poverty, like enhanced child tax credits and unemployment benefits, have also lapsed. The wave that has already swamped states like Kentucky will now crash across the country.
This is simply tragic. And unnecessary. Innovations like higher food stamp benefits really worked. "In 2021," reports The Grid, "food insecurity for households with kids fell to its lowest rate in two decades -- 12.5% or 4.6 million households -- according to the Agriculture Department. Child poverty rates cratered too, falling from 9.7% in 2020 to 5.2% in 2021, according to the Census Bureau."
"It's incredibly frustrating," Lisa Davis, senior vice president of No Kid Hungry, a nonprofit working to end childhood hunger, told The Grid. "We talk a lot about evidence-based policymaking, and during the pandemic, we were able to take policies we've been talking about for decades and put them into action. The evidence shows that they're incredibly effective, and to see them go away is really heartbreaking."
Heartbreaking, yes, and morally misguided. But even from a purely economic perspective, downsizing these programs makes no sense. Hungry kids don't learn as well, don't stay in school as long and are less likely to become healthy, productive tax-paying adults.
"There's great, convincing evidence that alleviating poverty is important for children," Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, an economist at Northwestern University, explained to the Voice of America. "It helps them grow and develop, and ... get the basics that they need to flourish as adults."
"SNAP remains our most powerful tool for combating hunger," Dottie Rosenbaum, a food stamp expert at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said on NPR. "It's found to be linked to improved health, education and economic outcomes and to lower medical costs."
Vince Hall, a spokesman for the antihunger advocacy organization Feeding America, warned in The New York Times that the decreased benefits will result in "nearly $3 billion per month in food purchasing power" disappearing "from the American economy," hurting not only farmers and truck drivers and grocery clerks, but the merchants who depend on their business.
Tarence Wheeler, director of community affairs at the River Rouge School District outside Detroit, warns on CNN that hunger can threaten public safety: "When you're desperate and longing, you're dangerous. We don't want people to feel that they have to do anything outside their character to feed their family."
Hunger activists hope that Congress will restore some of the lost food stamp benefits when they write a new five-year farm bill later this year, but with Republicans controlling the House, they are not optimistic. That means a greater burden will fall on private charities like the one in Hazel Green, and one of the best contributions any of us can make to our community is to support local nutrition and feeding programs.
Every hungry child is a moral failure, but also a lost opportunity to invest in our own future.
"Cars and trucks lined up for a mile". Yeah, Porsches, Cadillacs, Silverados, Teslas.......
Here's an idea. Don't vote for Socialists (Communists) like Joe Biden or Barack Obama or others who will destroy the economy and make more Americans food insecure. And, if you're a Republican, don't let the Democrats get away with stealing elections like the 2020 one. Grow a set of manhood and fight these criminals. (Are you listening Brian Kemp, Geoff Duncan, Brad Raffersperger, Mike Dugan, and Chris Carr? Probably not. RINOs don't have good hearing.) Question for the MDJ: Why are we having to read another liberal column by Steven Roberts? Are you paying this guy for his syndicated columns like you don't pay Roger Hines? This guy's stuff is typical liberal pap.
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