The recent US$1.7 trillion Omnibus Appropriations bill ended emergency boosts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and failed to include an expansion of the child tax credit. But anti-hunger advocate Rev. Eugene Cho, CEO and President of Bread for the World, argues that maintaining these programs is critical to addressing food insecurity in the United States.
The Christian-based nonprofit Bread for the World works to end hunger in the U.S. and abroad, opting to advocate for policy changes over direct food aid.
“Ultimately, policies impact people,” Cho tells Food Tank. “We want to work upstream because…we believe that these decisions have the potential to impact downstream, including those who are working in direct service organizations.”
According to Feeding America, for every one meal the food banks in their network can offer, SNAP provides nine. When policymakers increased SNAP benefits in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, it helped families purchase the food they needed in the face of unemployment and rising food prices. “These additional emergency SNAP benefits are being used and are essential right now,” Cho argues.
And the temporary expansion of the child tax credit, effective in 2021, “dramatically reduced child hunger and child poverty in this country by about 40 percent in the span of one year,” he says. After the expansion ended in December of that same year, “we saw the reverse trend of childhood hunger spiking up dramatically.”
But the 2023 Omnibus spending bill does not contain funding for these SNAP supplements, with some households expecting to see a drop in benefits by as much as US$258 per month. And despite Democrats’ push to expand the child tax credit, it also failed to make it into the final version of the bill.
“We have neighbors that simply don’t have enough income coming in to be able to utilize what’s needed for flourishing and for health in their lives,” Cho tells Food Tank.
Cho argues that the pandemic is not over—nor are the consequences of the virus that upended supply chains and strained families’ budgets—and he understands the outrage felt by the anti-hunger community. “There is a lot of frustration, a lot of discouragement, and there’s a lot of anger,” he says. But Cho also adds that “we know that we can continue to speak up, we can continue to meet with our lawmakers…Despite the fact that we’re angry, we’ve got to keep protecting SNAP benefits.”
Bread for the World is eyeing the 2023 Farm Bill as one of the next opportunities to address hunger at the federal level. Looking at the legislation through an equity and nutrition lens, they are identifying opportunities to remove barriers that prevent marginalized populations from receiving the benefits they need.
“I believe that no one wants children to go hungry. Nobody wants families to go hungry. Nobody wants farmers in urban and rural contexts to go hungry. That I believe,” Cho tells Food Tank. “Solutions might be a little different, but we’re asking lawmakers now to put their money where their mouth is, to implement their values and their convictions.”
Listen to the full conversation with Rev. Eugene Cho on “Food Talk with Dani Nierenberg” to hear more about Bread for the World’s work around the upcoming Farm Bill, how the organization is tackling food insecurity beyond the U.S., and the ways that faith shapes Cho’s relationship to his work and instills hope.
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Photo courtesy of Philippe Beliveau, Unsplash