September 11, 2013

MANDELBLATT: Feeding America

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This September is both Feeding America’s Hunger Action Month and the month when House Republicans plan to deny millions of Americans access to food (as determined before summer recess). So, what does this say about the state of our country? Well, it points clearly to the fact that not only is Congress prohibiting our nation from progressing today, its choice to severely cut food stamps negates the progress made by the New Deal 80 years ago.

Once again, this is a time that we must look to our leaders for help and for hope. The cost of living is too high, due in no small part to the increasing food prices; not even the incredible work of organizations like Feeding America can counteract it. Although Feeding America’s efforts have provided 37 million people with food, according to its Facebook page, it recognizes that “no other organization or individual can do more to help put food on the table for people in need than our federal government,” as stated on its website.

Such a claim is undoubtedly subject to the constant debates over the limits and powers of the federal government. However, the American people are endowed with the unalienable right to life and the government is endowed with the responsibility to preserve it. Food is the most basic necessity for survival, so as Harry Hopkins, adviser to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, said, “Hunger is not debatable.”

If one’s family is hungry, providing food becomes the first priority, without question or debate. So rather than putting money into a savings account for college or a house or healthcare, the money is quickly spent to satisfy hunger.  In The Nation, Gene Nichol, director of UNC’s Law School’s Center on Poverty, Work & Opportunity, writes, “You hear mothers tell of not eating so their children won’t go hungry, you hear parents talk about having to pick which child will eat on which day.”

When these are the situations families must face, it is no wonder why so many Americans suffer.

Unfortunately, this suffering is part of seemingly interminable cycle of poverty that underlies the competitively capitalist nature of our country. The “system” is designed so that success of one comes at the cost of another’s failure — a necessary evil, perhaps. However, it is unjust to conclude that such failure is simply the product of laziness, especially when 10.4 million people are classified as the working poor. This statistic, coupled with the American promise that hard work will not go unrewarded, lends itself to the fact that the government has a duty to provide for those in need.

We, as Americans, have grown too comfortable characterizing hunger as a problem that exists beyond the borders of our “sea to shining sea.” The truth is, though, if you do not live in a food insecure household, one in seven of your fellow Americans and neighbors does. Hunger is not a merely a foreign problem; it is an American problem with no end in sight.

The United States is based on the principle that our federal representatives are elected for and by the people. Before the New Deal introduced food stamps, the government was silently watching its people starve. This month, though, House Republicans don’t plan to be silent. No, it is much worse: they plan to spread suffering and starvation. In the end, there is only way to combat such injustice and it is to answer Feeding America’s call and take action against hunger this September.