Americans are going hungry. Congress has a chance to help.
On Saturday, Franklin Richards from Second Harvest of South Georgia took to LinkedIn with an urgent plea.
Earlier that day, his organization distributed more than 325,000 pounds of food to 2,000 local families. People waited three hours in a line that stretched more than two miles. He asked for donations so Second Harvest can continue serving families in need.
Richards is just one of many food bank leaders ringing alarm bells in the days before Thanksgiving. Reeling from the devastating economic impact of a global disease pandemic, millions are going hungry.
Food insecurity was a problem before COVID-19. Today, things are far worse. Since May, an estimated eight million Americans have slipped into poverty. More than one in six could face hunger by year’s end.
But the official statistics and technical terms only tell part of the story. A rural Virginia food bank reported that distributions to individuals jumped by more than a third between February and May 2020.
Likewise, a Robin Hood Foundation report released last week found that almost a third of New York City residents polled said they visited a food pantry in the previous twelve months – compared with only one in eight at the beginning of the year.
In many places, kids are attending classes remotely, which too often means they miss out on free school meals.
Interestingly, the Robin Hood report showed that local food pantry use has grown faster than enrollment in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and that SNAP recipients are also turning to food pantries for help.
That could mean people are having trouble enrolling in SNAP. It could also mean SNAP benefits aren’t enough. Either way, non-profit food banks aren’t just charities anymore, but critical infrastructure playing an increasingly important role in America’s food safety net.
Those food banks will be stretched to the limit unless Washington acts. Provisions of the CARES Act passed in March have helped stabilize finances and stave off hunger by extending and supplementing unemployment benefits, making those benefits available to contractors and providing one-time payments to certain people and families.
Now, assistance is expiring. Washington lawmakers have talked about continuing and even expanding benefits. But time is running out.
There’s one shot left. In a “lame duck” session that began last week and will run through December 10, the outgoing Congress has a chance to protect the most vulnerable by continuing assistance and making needed improvements.
As part of a must-pass “omnibus” spending bill to fund the federal government through September 2021, lawmakers can expand SNAP funding and grants for local food banks. Measures focused on food and targeted to the threat of widespread hunger can prevent disaster for many.
Pray our government acts in time. And give to those already making miracles. Food banks and other nonprofits in your community need your help. You can see lists of local organizations at ampleharvest.org, feedingamerica.org and other sites.
If you want to give Franklin Richards and the many Second Harvest South Georgia serves a hand, visit feedingSGA.org. Whatever your gift, it will make a tremendous difference to a needy family.
When your organization has a message for Washington lawmakers, Ceartas Advisors can help you deliver it persuasively and effectively. Our advocates have experience combating hunger and are ready to work for you. Equip your cause at ceartas.org.