Food aid budget cuts target needy, and that may be you
If you’ve met one of our clients at the Central Texas Food Bank, you’ve met one of our clients. Contrary to the stereotypes held by many, there is no “typical” person who needs food assistance. Our clients come from every ethnic and racial background, every education level and every household makeup. What they all share is a need for food assistance — a situation they never imagined themselves in.
These clients include people like Barbara and her husband, who have struggled to make ends meet since her scoliosis condition worsened and prevented her from working. Although her husband still has a full-time job, the increased medical costs Barbara faces means they must turn to the Food Bank for help with their groceries.
Another client is Sean, a disabled veteran who lives with his family on a fixed income. Although his family receives Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, it isn’t enough, and the family must rely on the Food Bank to supplement their groceries.
These people are our neighbors, living right here in prosperous, funky Austin. You may not recognize that they are in need because they look just like the rest of us — people who are working, raising families and trying to pay their bills.
Unfortunately, what they earn often isn’t enough. As recently reported in the American-Statesman, renting an average two-bedroom apartment requires a full-time wage earner to make $23 an hour — three times the minimum wage. At the end of the day, once rent and other bills are paid, food may be a basic need some people can’t meet.
The Central Texas Food Bank is able to help these families through food distribution at the nearly 250 area soup kitchens and food pantries run by our partner agencies and at our own mobile pantries. In fact, we are able to feed 46,000 people each week in our 21-county service territory.
We cannot do it alone. We must have the support of federal nutrition programs funded by Congress. For decades, food banks have worked in partnership with our federal government. Whether it is The Emergency Food Assistance Program, which provides nearly 30 percent of our food bank’s inventory, or SNAP, which helps our clients purchase more food at area grocery stores, or the Summer Food Service Program, which allows us to feed kids during the summer, we rely on the government’s support to take care of our neighbors.
Recently, the House Budget Committee approved a budget resolution making drastic cuts to safety net programs, including SNAP and school meals. This comes after the president issued his proposed budget that makes cuts to SNAP and TEFAP. If anything close to these proposals becomes reality, many more of our neighbors will face hunger. While there is much still to be done before the federal budget becomes final, we can’t ignore it. A budget is a moral document that reflects the priorities of our government leaders.
As Congress crafts the budget, it is important to remind them of the importance of SNAP and TEFAP. Cuts would increase demand on the charitable food system at a time when it is already stretched to the limit.
Proposed cuts to TEFAP would mean a loss of 33 million meals for food bank clients nationwide. It is improbable that the network of food banks could make up for this difference from other sources. Locally, the Central Texas Food Bank would simply have less food to distribute to our most vulnerable residents.
Behind the numbers and the political rhetoric of the budget are people — people like Barbara and Sean and their families who rely on the services of the Food Bank to get them through a difficult time. Join us in asking Congress to protect these federal nutrition programs, so we can continue to help our neighbors.
Chef Kim Granato at the Central Texas Food Bank readies meals for distribution. The bank, which delivers food in partnership with nearly 250 pantries and soup kitchens, serves about 46,000 people a week in 21 counties.