This is the Bread of Affliction: Hunger at the Seder

March 23, 2015
On Passover, Jews around the world eat matzah instead of leavened bread to remember how the Jewish people did not have time to wait for their bread to rise before they were escaping slavery in Egypt. While matzah can be delicious in certain forms – there is nothing like Grandma Fineman’s matzah meal pancakes, her chocolate covered matzah, or her matzah brei recipes – after eating the umpteenth peanut butter and jelly sandwich on matzah, the unleavened staple can start to seem old or tiresome. When seeing boxes upon boxes in grocery stores, I am among the first to groan. Yet even though we may not enjoy eating matzah, we have to remember that we are lucky to have food on our tables and in our bellies, unlike far too many people in our country. When we eat matzah on Passover, we remember that we are not just eating unleavened bread: rather, we are eating the bread of affliction, ha lachma anya, that our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt. What we eat at Passover helps make the holiday and reminds us of the very events that we are honoring. During the rest of the year, we consciously choose what we eat, unlike our ancestors when they were in a rush to flee slavery, or the 49 million American households that experienced food insecurity in 2013. As we eat matzah during our seders, we must remember that it is our responsibility to combat food insecurity. One way that we can do this is by advocating for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), which provides nourishment for those living in poverty. SNAP is a vital program that helps mitigate hunger and food insecurity for millions of people: 92% of SNAP benefits go to households that have incomes below the poverty line, which encompasses millions of working poor families. SNAP provides 46 million people with food each month. In 2013, SNAP lifted 4.8 million Americans – including 2.1 million children – out of poverty and helped over 46 million low-income Americans afford a nutritionally adequate diet around the end of 2014, evidencing the program’s effectiveness. By providing very low income people with desperately needed assistance that is targeted to be purchased at commercial food outlets, like groceries and farmers markets, SNAP reduces hunger and food insecurity for many Americans. Despite these effects, the SNAP program is under attack: the House Majority's budget proposal introduced this month would either cut funding from the program or change its structure. These changes would have devastating effects for millions of the neediest Americans. Sign the petition to let Members of Congress know that you support SNAP! At my family’s seder in Atlanta, we will use the Ha Lachma Anya reading from the RAC’s Passover Guide, to contextualize the need for programs like SNAP that use structural change to combat food insecurity and feed the hungry. If you are interested in bringing issues of economic justice to your seder, check out the Ha Lachma Anya reading, the RAC’s Passover Guide, and the RAC’s economic justice page for more information.

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