As part of Hunger Action Month, West Virginians are joining together to end hunger in communities across the state. Everyone has an important part to play in this fight – whether it’s donating food, volunteering at food pantries, or using social media to raise awareness about the ways that hunger holds back millions of Americans.
But as our communities renew their commitment to combating hunger this month, elected officials are putting one of our most powerful tools in the fight against hunger on the chopping block.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps, helps families keep food on the tables when tough times hit. The program keeps 357,000 West Virginians from going hungry. When families can afford healthy groceries, they have more to spend on basic necessities like diapers and medications. And when kids have enough to eat thanks to SNAP, they are healthier and do better in school and in their careers as adults.
The program is especially important for the most vulnerable West Virginians. Nearly two-thirds of the people who use SNAP are children, seniors, or people with disabilities. 130,000 children in WV use SNAP to help get enough to eat.
Average SNAP benefits are only $1.29 per person per meal. Most Americans who live above the poverty line would agree that that little bit isn’t enough. Yet, Congress has included $150 Billion in cuts to SNAP in the House budget proposal. Rural communities like ours have the most to lose if these cuts go through.
We invite you to take the SNAP challenge, and encourage Congress to preserve or increase funding for SNAP. Even the minimal amount that is currently afforded each family keeps 8 million Americans – our brothers and sisters – from falling into poverty.
Catholic Charities WV operates 9 food pantries as well as a Mobile Food Pantry that serves 5 additional rural counties. We know just how much these cuts will cost West Virginians. Every day, I meet workers who earn too little to feed themselves and their families, despite working long hours. I chat with people who have recently lost their jobs. Others have medical debt from an unexpected health care crisis that’s squeezing their family budget.
I also know that when these families can’t afford food, they can’t afford to spend at local grocery stores and other businesses – meaning our economy takes a hit. West Virginia businesses see $499 Million pumped into our economy every year thanks to SNAP, creating jobs and opportunity for more of our neighbors in turn.
No American should go hungry
Our staff and volunteers work hard to make a difference in this community. But we can’t do it alone. Food banks and pantries already struggle to keep WV fed. With any changes or cuts to SNAP, we just won’t be able to make up the difference.
Hunger Action Month is a time to speak out about hunger and lend a helping hand to those who don’t know where their next meal will come from. This year, that means holding our elected officials accountable to the promise that no American should go hungry. We urge Representatives Mooney, Jenkins, and McKinley, and Senators Manchin and Capito to oppose any federal budget that takes away food from our neighbors by cutting SNAP.
You can find more information on how SNAP affects West Virginians here: https://www.cbpp.org/sites/default/files/atoms/files/snap_factsheet_west_virginia.pdf