Catholic Rural Life has collaborated with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Charities USA and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul to offer testimony to the House Committee on Agriculture as part of its recent hearing on The Past, Present, and Future of SNAP: The World of Nutrition and the Role of the Charitable Sector.
The main purpose of our testimony was to call on Congress to support and sustain the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which effectively serves children, seniors, and people with disabilities and struggling families.
“SNAP remains one of the most effective federal programs to help hungry and low income people struggling to make ends meet,” we stated. “Our nation has a moral obligation to ensure that food insecure people have enough nutritious food to eat.”
The important contribution of our testimony was also to show that the Catholic community brings moral principles drawn from our faith tradition. Our experience is deeply rooted in communities throughout the country and in service to those who are hungry, poor and vulnerable.
Importance of SNAP
As a community of faith, we strongly expressed our support for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which has proven essential in effectively serving the “least of these” among us. SNAP is the first line of defense for people who do not have enough food each month. In 2014, SNAP served more than 46 million people throughout the nation.
With the purchasing power of food stamp dollars decreasing and food prices rising, vulnerable people, especially children and seniors, cannot afford to have their benefits further cut or reduced.
SNAP is at risk for cuts and harmful program changes that will reduce benefits for people still struggling to get back on their feet. As Congress debates its budgetary priorities, it is important to ensure that hungry, working poor and vulnerable people do not become the focus of harmful cuts to anti-hunger and anti-poverty programs.
Catholic Response to Hunger
Catholic organizations and institutions live out the corporal works of mercy, one of which includes feeding the hungry. Driven by our faith, we continue to find means to serve as many persons and families as we can with our donated private resources.
In the written testimony, CRL wanted to emphasize that rural America is particularly impacted by hunger, food insecurity and high rates of poverty.
“On average, sixteen percent of people in rural communities live in poverty, a rate higher than those living in metropolitan areas,” our testimony stated. “In economically stressed areas, rural poverty rates are considerably higher.”
It is ironic and unacceptable, we noted, that where our food is produced families can still suffer from hunger and food insecurity.
Charitable sector and SNAP must continue
The testimony highlighted the direct service work of Catholic Charities USA and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. CRL is certainly grateful for their efforts in rural communities.
Catholic Charities agency directors from across the country, serving in urban,suburban, and rural communities tell us that hunger is a major issue where they serve and that SNAP is critical to alleviating poverty more broadly in their communities.
Our Catholic agencies, parishes, food pantries and schools are able to effectively combine private resources with government partnerships to maximize impact through public-private partnerships. A stronger partnership between churches, charities, business and government must respond effectively to rising needs and ensure food security for all Americans.
As Pope Francis reminds us, the right to food “can only be ensured if we care about the actual subject, that is, the person who suffers the effects of hunger and malnutrition.”