Access to adequate food is a human right. As Vincentians, we understand the benefits of healthy food, and we know that feeding the hungry is our Gospel call and the foundation of St. Vincent de Paul's work. Unfortunately, too often we encounter the face of hunger in our food pantries, on home visits, and in virtually every other ministry. We see the deep emotional and physical stress that persistent food insecurity causes--especially for children and families.
Our Society's efforts to fight hunger combine with those of other churches and community centers and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) to create a network of support. These programs work together to increase access to food, and they are successful in fighting hunger and poverty. I shudder to think of a country without Vincentian food pantries and dining programs, or federal assistance. Unfortunately, though, every day over 41 million people across our country still struggle to find enough to eat.
Congress is working on a new Farm Bill, which funds SNAP, and is considering changes to the program that could cause millions of people--including children, the elderly, and people with disabilities--to lose this critical benefit. The program already requires most non-elderly adult recipients to work or actively look for work. Proposals being considered would increase the existing requirements as well as the penalties for noncompliance. As Vincentians, we know that many SNAP recipients are from working families whose jobs do not pay living wages, while others live in communities where decent work is painfully scarce. How many of us have made home visits to a working parent whose SNAP benefit is critical to feeding her children, or an unemployed dad desperate for a new job? Research confirms our experiences: most working-age adults who receive SNAP benefits are working, have a partner who work, or have worked in the recent past.
We also know that rural communities face unique challenges, and farmers have special roles in fighting hunger. The Farm Bill makes important investments in both, which we should support and celebrate.
Hunger is a scourge. Cutting SNAP benefits would increase hunger and hardship in our communities, as well as drive up demand for our services--a demand we already struggle to meet. I recently signed a letter with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Relief Services, and others calling on Congress to protect poor and vulnerable families by rejecting policies that take food away from people struggling to survive. I urge you to read our letter and add your voice to these efforts.
Thank you for all you do in service to our brothers and sisters in Christ,
National Council President