off the charts
POLICY INSIGHT
BEYOND THE NUMBERS

In Making Budget Cuts, New Joint Committee Should Not Forget the Human Impact

Stacy Dean

Vice President for Food Assistance Policy

With attention focused on spiraling federal deficits, some budget experts surely will rate the new joint congressional committee that will start work this month on whether it meets its deficit-reduction targets.  Another important yardstick should be whether it does so in a fair and humane way. A recent ABC News series of pieces, entitled “Hunger at Home: Crisis in America,” is especially relevant in this regard because it sheds light on the many dimensions of hunger that now face families across the nation.  Among the many families highlighted in the series, two families stood out. Over a year ago, Don Orange, a single father of two, lost his job as a manager of a chain of shoe stores in Florida.  When his unemployment benefits ran out in April, Don applied for SNAP (formerly called food stamps) and turned to the local food pantry because he could no longer afford to feed his family. Meanwhile, Jahzaire Sutton, a 10-year-old boy from Philadelphia whose family participates in SNAP, says that, by the end of the month, he watches his mother skip meals so that he can eat. Orange, Sutton, and their families are among the millions of Americans who are struggling every day to get by. Some 50 million Americans (about one household in seven) are “food insecure,” meaning their family lacks the resources they need to get enough nutritious food to thrive, according to federal Agriculture Department figures from 2009.  That means that 17.2 million children are at risk of going hungry. Thankfully, there are critical supports available to these families through SNAP, school meals, and the other federal nutrition programs.  It is crucial that these programs not be weakened in their ability to assist families in need.