Hunger’s Needless Persistence in America

By Congressman G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) / 4.1.11

A new national study on hunger in America truly underscores the need for a strong nutrition safety net for the millions of families that continue to struggle amidst the slow economic recovery.

Nearly one in five Americans struggled to afford enough food for themselves and their families in 2010, according to a new report released this month by the Food Research and Action Center.

In 177 of the 436 congressional districts – including the District of Columbia – one-fifth or more of all responding households reported food hardship; 324 districts suffered with a hunger rate of 15 percent or higher; and, only 17 had fewer than one in ten responding households reporting food hardship.

My rural largely congressional district in eastern North Carolina ranked second worst in the country for food security. Without question, there is an extremely difficult reality for many families struggling to meet their basic needs during these tough times.

Nearly one in three people faced food security issues in my district. While this shows the significant hardships many people in eastern North Carolina are facing, the data also indicates that food hardship is a major challenge for people in every corner of the United States. In fact, even in the best state – Minnesota – nearly 14 percent of people suffered food insecurity.

In showing the extent of the problem, this data clearly highlights the importance of federal nutrition programs, many of which are facing drastic cuts. Among the cuts for Fiscal Year 2011 that have been proposed by House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers:

- $747 million cut to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (the WIC program);

- $100 million cut for the FEMA Emergency Food and Shelter Program;

- $20 million cut to the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP);

- Eliminate the Hunger Free Communities Grants – $5 million cut;

- Eliminate The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) Infrastructure Grants – $6 million cut.

Additionally, Republicans have also proposed a number of additional cuts that would deeply impact many of the families struggling to put food on the table, including proposals to cut $1 billion – 15 percent – from Head Start and cut $390 million from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Republicans have also proposed substantial cuts to job training programs, family planning and community health centers.

Without question, the federal government needs to cut costs and reduce spending, but the burden and pain should not fall heaviest on the people already suffering the most, especially when it comes to hunger.

As we look ahead to Fiscal Year 2012, President Barack Obama has proposed a budget that provides strong and needed support for the federal nutrition programs. President Obama’s proposed budget rightly assumes an increase in need for food stamps and child nutrition programs. As we move ahead, I hope that Congress will support a strong nutrition safety net for the millions of families still struggling to recover.

The real shame of hunger is that we already posses the resources and understanding needed to end the problem. It is a problem that can and must be eliminated. And, because hunger affects every single congressional district in American, there can be no excuse for failing to come together with a plan to eliminate hunger.

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