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Federal cuts could force thousands in Mass. To go hungry

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With the impending cuts to the Farm Bill, we will have too many families like Craig's and not enough resources to feed them all.

Debbie
Rambo

This month, I'd like to focus on an issue that is omnipresent in our work at Catholic Charities -- food insecurity. We feed over 100,000 people in Massachusetts each year through our food pantries, but still thousands of working poor or unemployed people and their children struggle every day to find their next meal. It is with these people in mind that we ask again for your attention to pending legislation that concerns those we care for.

Last month, the House of Representatives' Agriculture Committee passed the Agriculture and Nutrition Act. This bill would reauthorize the Farm Bill programs in the Commonwealth. The Farm Bill authorizes federal policies that directly affect nutrition programs, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), and others. While the bill maintains, and in some cases improves, some of these programs, its changes to SNAP will result in up to 2 million people losing access to food benefits. That number is simply staggering.

This news comes on the heels of new research done by The Massachusetts Association for Community Action, or MASSCAP, and MassBudget, that used the census' new metric for poverty levels, SPM. The new metric accounts for household costs covering basic needs like food and shelter, and also adjusts for differences in costs of living nationwide. Because Massachusetts is one of just 13 states where SPM rates are higher than traditional poverty rates, MASSCAP and MassBudget's report shed light on a startling truth. Their research showed that cuts to programs like SNAP would double poverty levels statewide.

The loss of these benefits would be catastrophic to clients of ours like Craig. Craig (not his real name), is a single father of two sons, ages 8 and 10. He works building security in Boston full-time, earning $15.73 an hour, or about $31,450 a year. The living wage for Craig's family is estimated by a recent MIT study to be $68,607, a gap of $37,000. Craig's sons love going to their charter school in Dorchester -- they are both excellent math students. Through the school's free and reduced lunch program, Craig doesn't have to worry during the school year that his sons are receiving healthy, warm meals every day while he is at work. But when school breaks for the summer, Craig worries that his children won't have a meal until dinner.

Craig was familiar with our work at Catholic Charities, because he sent his sons to our Sunset Point Camp for a week last summer. When he learned about the food pantry, he realized it could be the solution to his need to feed his children without the free and reduced lunch programs.

With the impending cuts to the Farm Bill, we will have too many families like Craig's and not enough resources to feed them all.

With that in mind, we hope that you join us in conjunction with groups including The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Charities USA, Catholic Rural Life, and the National Council of the U.S. Society of St. Vincent de Paul, in urging members of Congress to vote against these deeply flawed reforms, and instead work to strengthen nutrition assistance programs.

You can voice your opinion either by contacting your representative directly, or using this link: https://catholiccharitiesusa.org/advocacy-and-policy/advocacy-center?vvsrc= percent2fcampaigns percent2f58505 percent2frespond.

If you have any questions about us or our work go to CCAB.org.

Deborah Kincade Rambo is president of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston.

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