William Baker Feeding hungry neighbors at home, and beyond
It is wonderful to pick up the newspaper and see good news on the front page. I thank the Stamford Advocate for bringing “Stamford’s Supper Club” to our attention (Dec. 8 news story, “Stamford High athletic director launches program to feed hungry students”).
If you missed it, Stamford High School’s Director of Athletics, Chris Passamano, discovered that a significant number of students and athletes were not getting enough food at home. Realizing that hungry students don’t learn as well and hungry athletes don’t play as well, he organized a program to provide portable meals that students could eat before practice, on the bus to a game, or at home. Chartwells Food Service provided a grant for the food, the Board of Education gave their approval, and Supper Club was born. Well done, all.
Of course, this is just one city, and hunger is a problem everywhere. One out of every five American children goes to bed hungry every night. Churches and charities do great work in helping the families of these children, but Bread for the World estimates that charities provide only one out of every 20 bags of food assistance in America. The other 19 come from federal nutrition programs.
And that is why the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP — what we used to call Food Stamps) is of critical importance. It is only assistance — at $1.40 per meal, it will not cover the entire food budget — but it is enough that it may make the difference.
I know a man who once told me that, as a child, he and his siblings always knew when the SNAP funding came. They got milk on their cereal, instead of water.
SNAP is funded by the Farm Bill, which is reauthorized every five years. And this is one of those years. You would think that food for our children would be a “no brainer.” But the House of Representatives added new, draconian work requirements to SNAP, which would have taken away 9 billion meals over the next 10 years. The Senate, on the other hand, passed a bipartisan Farm Bill that left the present work requirements unchanged. And the Farm Bill was stymied for months.
With the end of the year (and of the funding for running the government) coming upon us, cooler heads prevailed, and it appears that the House and Senate will agree on a bipartisan compromise Farm Bill that leaves SNAP unchanged. Thanks go to U.S. Rep. Jim Himes (and Connecticut’s other four representatives) and senators Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal. And a majority of the rest of the Members of Congress. I think they should all hear the story of “Stamford’s Supper Club.”
William Baker is a volunteer advocate for RESULTS, a nonprofit organization seeking an end to poverty here and throughout the world.