Food aid bud­get cuts tar­get needy, and that may be you

Austin American-Statesman - - VIEWPOINTS -

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.

DEB­O­RAH CAN­NON / AMER­I­CAN-STATESMAN

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.

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