At least 12.5% of Western Massachusetts residents are living below the poverty line, and that number is growing.
In the wake of the economic downturn, the social safety net has been the saving grace for millions of Americans in communities all across the country. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in particular has helped over 46 million people meet their basic food needs, a fact which makes the recent decisions by the House Agriculture Committee all the more alarming.
Last week, the committee voted to slash the budget for SNAP by more than $33 billion – a cut that is sure to have widespread consequences for the millions of households who rely on its benefits. This devastating reduction in funding is a misguided attempt at addressing deficit reduction, one that seems to ignore the true problems and instead chooses to place the burden of reduced spending on those who are in need of the benefit of food assistance. A benefit which helps some of the most vulnerable among us make ends meet.
This course of action by the House Agriculture Committee is confusing to say the least, as the decision by the committee members seems to indicate their belief that hunger is not a real problem in the US, or at least in their communities. The numbers however paint a much different picture. A recent analysis on food hardship by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) shows that food hardship and SNAP usage in the mostly rural districts of the committee members is just as prevalent as in the rest of the country. In fact, the number of rural households (14.6 %) which rely on SNAP is much higher than that among suburban households (9%) and is comparable to central city households (14.8%).
The fact of rural hunger is something to bear in mind especially here in Western Massachusetts, where one can find a large number of rural communities, particularly in Berkshire country. The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts and our member agencies work hard to provide all of our communities, rural and urban alike, with the food assistance they need and deserve, because no one should be in danger of going hungry.Comments Off
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