Pelavin: "Hunger does not affect family members in isolation; we must not address the needs of children by depriving their families of critical assistance."
WASHINGTON, D.C., August 10, 2010 -- In response to Senate passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (S.3307), which would reauthorize child nutrition programs while cutting Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamp) benefits, and in anticipation of the House of Representatives' vote on the bill, Religious Action Center Associate Director Mark J. Pelavin sent the following letter to members of the House of Representatives:
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20510
August 10, 2010
On behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, including over 1800 Reform rabbis, I urge action on the Improving Nutrition for America's Children Act (H.R.5504), which would reauthorize the Child Nutrition Programs with $8 billion in crucial new funding over the next ten years. As Jews, we are taught to "share [our] bread with the hungry and bring the homeless into [our] house." In that spirit, it is vital that Congress improve the Child Nutrition Programs to positively impact the scope of food insecurity experienced by 16.7 million children in 2008.
While the Reform Jewish Movement wholeheartedly supports the goals of the Child Nutrition Reauthorization legislation in both chambers of Congress, we believe it must be paid for in a responsible way. On August 5th, the Senate passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (S.3307), partially paying for the bill by reducing SNAP (food stamp) benefits. If enacted, this would result in a family of four losing more than $60 per month in SNAP benefits beginning in 2013. Hunger does not affect family members in isolation; we must not address the needs of children by depriving their families of critical assistance.
The school breakfasts, lunches and snacks that low-income students rely on each day must not come at the expense of dinners later in the day. 40.8 million Americans participated in SNAP benefits in May 2010, according to the Food Research and Action Center. Cutting SNAP benefits, especially at a time of record-high food insecurity and SNAP participation, will negate the positive impact of a strong Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act.
Jewish tradition teaches, "When you are asked in the world to come, 'What was your work?' and you answer: 'I fed the hungry,' you will be told: 'This is the gate of the Lord, enter into it, you who have fed the hungry'" (Midrash to Psalm 118:17). The time has come to robustly improve the reach and quality of child nutrition programs. I urge you to pass a Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act that lives up to these ideals and meets the needs of the American people.
Mark J. Pelavin