Sister Simone Campbell, Executive Director of NETWORK: A Catholic Social Justice Lobby and this week’s Food Hero, has a bone to pick with Congress — and she’s making sure they know about it. In the ongoing battle over funding levels for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps) and its place in the farm bill, Campbell has been supporting sustained funding levels for the program and other key food programs, including Child Nutrition Reauthorization and Farm-to-School.
NETWORK’s support for food assistance has put Campbell on the front lines of the controversial budget discussions, which have included measures that would drastically reduce funding for SNAP and have serious negative impacts for some of the nation’s most vulnerable citizens, according to a report from Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. In her testimony to the U.S. House Budget Committee during its hearing on “The War on Poverty,” Campbell referenced the long history of substantial support provided by SNAP. She went on to categorize the program’s current role as a “lifeline to millions of Americans.”
For Campbell, the provision of adequate federal food assistance is a matter of justice, not charity. In an address given at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, Campbell explained, “Justice comes when people can satisfy their basic human needs,” rejecting the argument made by some congressional leaders that food assistance should be treated more as a charitable endeavor of social organizations and faith congregations, and less as a major program of the federal government. Statistics published by Bread for the World, a Christian lobbying group working to end hunger in the United States, indicated that private charitable organizations could not come close to filling the gap that would be left by the federal cuts to SNAP benefits. Bread for the World’s Churches and Hunger Fact Sheet stated that in 2011, “federal nutrition programs delivered more than 23 times the amount of food assistance as did private charities.”
The release of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2012 Poverty Statistics prompted Campbell’s recent call to action, as she called upon Congress to “immediately halt efforts to decimate programs that help people live lives of dignity and promise.”