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Deficit reduction is about people, not numbers

By Nancy L. Carrington, Connecticut Food Bank President & CEO

The following opinion editorial appeared in the December 26, 2012, edition of the New Haven Register.  

As our nation’s leaders work to find a balanced agreement on deficit reduction, it is important to remember that this conversation is about more than just numbers. It’s about people. 

When talking about trillions of dollars, it is easy to lose perspective and think of these decisions as just numbers on a balance sheet. But the decisions that are being made right now will have a lasting impact on real people right here in Connecticut – your neighbors, your colleagues, people who are part of the fabric of our community. 

To understand that point, you need only make a visit to your local food bank, church pantry, soup kitchen, or other agencies in our community helping to put food on the table for struggling Connecticut residents.  Connecticut Food Bank and its 600 food-assistance programs see every day how area families are scraping by. Too many people are still unemployed, and many of those who are back at work are working for reduced wages or fewer hours. 

That’s why Connecticut Food Bank is deeply concerned about proposals to cut hunger-relief resources as part of fiscal cliff and Farm Bill negotiations. Congress has proposed cutting billions of dollars from SNAP (formerly food stamps), causing millions of people to see their food assistance cut or lose assistance entirely. Congress has also proposed capping the tax deduction that individuals can take for donating to charities, which would make it harder for food banks to raise food and funds. 

There is no way food banks could fill the gap if anti-hunger programs like SNAP were cut, and our ability to serve the needy in our community would be greatly diminished without federal policies like the charitable giving tax deduction.  While some would like to believe that hunger is a problem better solved by charity, the truth is charity can’t do it alone. Speaking from the frontlines, we are barely able to keep up with existing need. If you have any doubt that need is real, take a look at these numbers: 

  • More than 151,000 children in Connecticut live in a family that doesn’t always know how it will put food on the table.
  •  Three out of every four SNAP households include a child, senior, or disabled person, and half of all SNAP participants are children. 
  • The average SNAP benefit is less than $1.50 per person, per meal. For senior households, it is only $1.23. 
  • 68 percent of pantries, 42 percent of soup kitchens, and 15 percent of emergency shelters rely solely on volunteers and have no paid staff, and we rely on charitable donations – both funds and food – for about 80 percent of the food we distribute. 

Please join us in calling on our nation’s leaders to propose balanced deficit reduction that protects hungry families.

This article was posted in Advocacy, Childhood hunger, Nancy Carrington, SNAP/Food Stamps.

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