by Jake Johnson – CommonDreams.org
Data recently published by the U.S. Census Bureau shows that more than 27 million people across the country didn’t have enough food to eat during a one-week period in late June and early July, a 35 percent increase over the same period in 2021.
Joel Berg, the CEO of Hunger Free America, said in a statement August 2 that the surge in food insecurity was likely caused by a combination of elevated costs and the expiration of benefits enacted during the coronavirus pandemic, such as the expanded child tax credit.
Berg also pointed to congressional Republicans’ ongoing attacks on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. In May, House Republicans secured a deal with President Joe Biden to impose new work requirements on older adults receiving federal food aid—a move that experts say will put 750,000 people at risk of losing benefits.
The White House-GOP deal came months after SNAP benefit enhancements implemented during the pandemic expired, slashing aid for tens of millions of people. Food banks across the country subsequently reported a surge in demand, according to a survey by Feeding America.
“No one should be shocked that when the government takes away food, as well as money to buy food, hunger increases,” Berg said. “Given that the gaps between wages and living costs are still so great that tens of millions of Americans can’t afford enough food, the mass deprivation in the midst of an overall recovery is one key reason why the U.S. public still tells pollsters they have a negative view of the U.S. economy.”
“This new data should be a wake-up call for elected officials at the national, state, and local levels that they need to take bold, concrete actions to raise wages, make quality housing and childcare more affordable, and strengthen—not cut—the food safety net,” Berg added. “The ongoing push by key congressional conservatives to further slash these programs is both morally appalling and economically counterproductive.”
Members of the far-right House Freedom Caucus are reportedly pushing for additional SNAP benefit restrictions as part of the annual farm bill, which authorizes the critical and effective anti-hunger program.
In addition to targeting SNAP, House Republicans are also proposing cuts to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) in their fiscal year 2024 agriculture appropriations bill.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities recently estimated that if the House GOP’s bill becomes law, “650,000 to 750,000 eligible people—primarily toddlers, preschoolers, and postpartum adults—would be turned away” from WIC and an additional 4.6 million would face benefit cuts.
House Republicans failed to pass the agriculture bill in late July before leaving town for August recess.
In a scathing statement, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) said that Republicans couldn’t rally sufficient GOP support for the measure “because it was not extreme and dangerous enough.”
“Apparently—for House Republicans—it did not take enough food out of the mouths of women and children, it did not prevent enough farmers from buying homes and accessing clean water, it did not prevent enough rural homes from accessing the internet, it did not prevent enough women from accessing an abortion, and it did not protect enough billionaires and corporations from paying their taxes,” DeLauro added.