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James M.
Democrat MA 2

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  • Food Insecurity

    by Representative James P. McGovern

    Posted on 2013-12-11

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    McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, on Friday, the Republican leadership has decided we will adjourn for the holidays. Notwithstanding the fact that we haven't done immigration reform, we haven't passed a jobs bill, we haven't extended unemployment insurance, they have all decided it is time to go home and enjoy the holidays. So on Friday, we will all leave and go back to our districts.

    The one thing we will all have in common, Democrats and Republicans, is we will go back and we will enjoy the holidays, and we will partake in many celebrations. And the one thing that we will not have to worry about is whether or not we will have enough to eat. Our concern, quite frankly, will be overeating.

    But the fact is, for millions of our fellow citizens, close to 50 million Americans, they will have to worry about whether they will have enough to eat for them and their families. Fifty million people in this country, the richest country in the history of the world, are hungry; 17 million are kids. All kinds of people fall in that category. Sadly, close to 1 million of our veterans rely on food assistance programs because they don't have enough to eat.

    Mr. Speaker, the fact that so many people in the United States of America are hungry is a national disgrace. We should be outraged. There should be outrage in this Chamber. There should be a sense of urgency that we need to solve this problem. Yet what we see is indifference and, in some cases, outright hostility toward those Americans who happen to be poor.

    The House of Representatives recently passed a farm bill that cut the SNAP program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which is designed to ensure people have enough to eat. They cut that program by $40 billion. In the Senate version, they cut it by about $4.5 billion. There is now a conference committee going on, and press reports say that maybe they will decide on an $8 billion cut.

    Eight billion dollars, what does that mean? That means that 850,000 families in this country will be impacted in a negative way by that cut; 1.7 million people.

    [[Page H7633]] {time} 1030 For those people who would be impacted by that $8 billion cut, it is about a $90 cut per month in the benefit that they get. Every single person on the SNAP program received a cut. That cut that happened on November 1 for an average family of three would be about a $30 cut. So you add the $30 plus the $90 that we are now talking about, that is now a $120 cut per month for these families. That is a lot of money.

    The fact of the matter is the SNAP benefit, as it stands, is not overly generous. In fact, I would say it is too stingy. It doesn't provide enough for people to be able to afford food, never mind nutritious food. A lot of the people who show up at our food banks and our food pantries are on the SNAP program. But to cut an average family of three's benefits by about $120 per month is outrageous. We don't have to worry. No one in this Chamber has to worry about whether or not they can afford to put food on the table for their families. Why aren't we more concerned with the fact that there are so many people in this country who are food insecure and who are outright hungry? We need to do something about this.

    Mr. Speaker, I have heard my colleagues say, Well, we are not really trying to cut people's benefits; all we are trying to do is reform the program. We are trying to combat a culture of dependency. When you cut this program that provides food to poor people, what you do is you don't deal with an issue of a culture of dependency. What you do is make their lives more miserable. The fact of the matter is the majority of people on SNAP are children, senior citizens, and disabled people. Of those who can work, a majority of them work. There are people who work full time and still are so poor they qualify for SNAP assistance.

    And the response of this Congress is going to be to make their lives more miserable? I ask my colleagues who support these cuts, is that what you came here for, to make the lives of the most vulnerable in this country more miserable? Is that what you are here for? Is that the purpose of your service in the United States Congress? Give me a break. We need to solve these problems.

    The fact of the matter is that increasing hunger in America costs us a great deal. Hungry kids don't learn in school. Senior citizens who can't afford their food and their medication and take their medication on an empty stomach end up in our emergency rooms. There is a cost to hunger. In fact, it is more expensive to tolerate the hunger in America than it is to solve the problem. We were elected to solve problems, to lift people up, and not put people down.

    I would just finally close, Mr. Speaker, by saying I urge the White House to get more involved in this issue, to get involved in this fight. There are some things worth fighting for. Ending poverty and ending hunger in America is worth fighting for.

    Mr. Speaker, I urge all my colleagues to reject cuts in the SNAP program that will increase hunger in America.


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