Vicki Escarra: People Are Not Just Numbers on a Balance Sheet

With 49 million people in the U.S. struggling with hunger and our food bank network already-straining to meet people’s urgent need for food assistance in communities all across America, the wrong way to attempt to balance the budget is by cutting programs that ensure hungry people in our country have access to food.

In this troubled economy, workers’ wages and hours have been reduced; state and local assistance programs have been slashed; federal safety net programs are facing cuts and the charitable system is stretched to the breaking point—leaving too many families struggling to get by.

The downturn has hit Latino families particularly hard.  Since the beginning of the recession, the number of unemployed Latinos has more than doubled, pushing the rate to 11.4 percent. This, coupled with a lower than average median income, led Latino households to experience higher than average rates of food insecurity and poverty—26.2 percent and 26.6 percent respectively. In this time of such great need, cuts to nutrition assistance would have a devastating impact on low-income families, disproportionately so in Latino communities across the country.

Every day, hunger strains the very fabric of our nation. Low-income families already have to make impossible choices between buying food and or paying for other basic necessities such as utilities and rent. Limiting the ability to coordinate Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, SNAP benefits, or ‘Heat and Eat’ policies will immediately and disproportionately impact seniors, the disabled and families who cannot afford to make ends meet.

We all agree that our nation’s deficit must be reduced, but the decisions Congress will make are not just about percentages or decimal points on the federal balance sheet--they have real impact on real people who are struggling just to put food on the table.

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Washington has a long standing history of a bipartisan commitment to protecting low-income people and the safety net in past deficit reduction agreements. We urge Congress to continue that commitment and protect funding for hunger-relief programs throughout the deficit reduction process.

Feeding America remains confident that with morally and fiscally responsible legislation we can, and will, end hunger in our lifetime

Vicki B. Escarra is President and CEO of Feeding America, the nation’s leading domestic hunger-relief charity, which helps provide food to Americans in need through a network of more than 200 food banks.

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