This year, politicians must resolve to do more for the hungry (Sun Sentinel)
This article originally appeared in the Sun Sentinel on February 2, 2022.
For many, the recent holidays were a time of charity. But in the first few weeks of the year, the holiday food drives have vanished along with the seasonal decorations and New Years’ resolutions. While the holiday tradition of giving is a beautiful, important custom that helps meet the enormous immediate need in our communities, food insecurity cannot be addressed with fleeting kindness and charity at the end of the year. Systemic challenges require systemic solutions.
Over the nearly two years of the pandemic, as the economic impacts of COVID-19 exacerbated existing inequities in our society, we have seen overwhelming evidence demonstrating the efficacy — and necessity — of strong governmental programs. According to recent USDA figures, the number of Americans experiencing food insecurity did not grow significantly between 2019 and 2021 — a testament to the critical investments we made as a nation in nutrition safety net programs during the pandemic’s upheavals. Millions of families across the country avoided severe hunger during the initial COVID-19 crisis because of our government’s actions in the pandemic’s early days: boosting critical initiatives like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) and creating the Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT) program, as well as instituting the Child Tax Credit, which directly increased families’ purchasing power.
Only with decisive government action were we able to avert further deterioration of an already dire crisis during the pandemic. But some 38.3 million Americans — 10.5% of all American households — still face food insecurity. Approximately 2.5 million Floridians face hunger today, including about 800,000 of our children and nearly 300,000 of our seniors. With this in mind, the course of action is clear: From local to state to federal governments, every leader must act to ease the burdens of food insecurity facing their constituents, not just in Florida, but nationwide.
Congressman Ted Deutch represents Florida’s 22nd District in the U.S. House of Representatives. Abby J. Leibman is president and CEO of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger.