Contact: Jonathan Gilad

October 26, 2011: Food Stamp Challenge Kick Off

Major Faith Organizations Join to Kick Off National Food Stamp Challenge
Americans Asked to Live for a Week on Food Stamp Budget

National religious leaders, Member of Congress, Senior Obama Administration officials, and current Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps) recipients will join at a DC Safeway supermarket on Thursday, October 27 at 10:00 AM for a press conference and shopping trip for a week’s worth of groceries on the average SNAP allotment of $31.50. With Congress considering cutting the budget for SNAP, the religious community is leading an effort to focus the country’s attention on the realities of hunger and poverty.

The national event marks the beginning of the 4th annual Fighting Poverty with Faith mobilization. Fighting Poverty with Faith, cosponsored by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Catholic Charities USA, and the National Council of Churches includes more than 50 national faith organizations brought together by shared traditions of justice to act on behalf of those living in poverty in America.

Event speakers include White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (MO), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (IL), Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Dr. Kathleen Merrigan, Catholic Charities USA President Rev. Larry Snyder, Jewish Council for Public Affairs President Rabbi Steve Gutow, National Council of Churches President Rev. Peg Chemberlin, Islamic Society of North America’s National Director of Interfaith and Community Alliances Dr. Sayyid Syeed, and local SNAP recipients.

Other members of Congress taking the Fighting Poverty with Faith Food Stamp Challenge include Rep. Jim Moran (VA), Rep. Barbara Lee (CA), Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (FL), Rep. Keith Ellison (MN), Rep. Joe Courtney (CT), Rep. Tim Ryan (OH), and Delegate Donna Christensen (VI).

“The goal of the Food Stamp Challenge is to engage Americans of every faith and bring the realities of hunger to those across the country unaware of its pervasiveness and challenges; especially here, at Congress’s doorstep,” said Rabbi Gutow. “If we are to get serious about ending hunger, which we have the tools to do, it cannot be an abstract idea for us. Understanding the challenges of feeding yourself - let alone providing healthy meals for kids, who make up over half of SNAP recipients – on just $31.50 for one week will help others know just how valuable SNAP is. America is an abundant nation, but that abundance is not seen in the carts of the tens of millions who live on SNAP. Before Congress decides that this program can be cut, we urge them to look at how little we’re able to put in our carts with this budget and see how millions are getting by.”

Rev. Chemberlin continued, “More than 45 million persons live on food stamps, and they are not strangers. They are our neighbors, co-workers, family members, and they are us. I have been on food stamps. I am in better times now. But I remember how much we tried to hide it from those around me. We stand together in grocery check-out lines, yet so many of us have no idea what it is like to struggle to feed families on $4.50 a day. I challenge all of us to share in that struggle for a week, not merely to attract attention to the growing needs of persons in poverty, but as a reminder that God does not expect any of us to turn our backs on others in need.”

“It is simply unacceptable that one in six Americans are living in hunger,” said Rev. Snyder.  “SNAP is an integral component of the national response to hunger and it must be supported by those who wish to make a difference in the lives of those who struggle with hunger, not knowing where their next meal will come from.  While today’s hunger statistics are staggering, we must remember that they represent children, single parents, and families living in communities across the country and that they deserve our best thinking about how to dramatically reduce or eliminate hunger in America.  We have a moral responsibility to urgently address the need for a permanent and financially sustainable solution to this growing tragedy.”

Said Dr. Syeed, “God in His infinite mercy has given us stewardship of His earthly resources.  He has given us the responsibility to look after the needs of those who are poor and do not have access to those resources.  We are responsible for making sure that the systems we devise and the choices we make are founded on sincerity, fairness and justice, and that we look after those members of society who are prevented from doing so themselves as a result to personal or institutional afflictions.  The national budget is a document that represents our national moral priorities, and when we fail to live up to these priorities, we risk causing suffering, pain and deprivation to those who are already deprived and dispossessed. Making cuts to critical programs like SNAP could result in suffering and an imbalance in the scales of justice for generations to come."   

Members of the public are encouraged to follow @FPWF and to engage with live reactions and quotes using the hashtag #FoodStampChallenge.  Sign up to take the National Food Stamp Challenge here.


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