Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
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Senior advocates fight cuts to nation’s nutrition assistance program

By Suzanne Higgins on May 14, 2012
© West Virginia Public Broadcasting

More than 5 million older Americans struggle to put food on the table and another 3.5 million are living in poverty, according to new analysis from Bread for the World, a Christian organization, and one of the country’s largest anti-hunger/anti-poverty advocacy groups.

 “As long as we still have those kind of numbers, it’s important that we do something about it,” said Bishop Don Dixon Williams, a racial/ethnic outreach associate for Bread for the World.

 “We want to make sure that the elder people in this country are going to be taken care of and I think a nation is judged by how they treat their young people and how they treat their old people, and this report kind of emphasizes that,” said Williams.

 According to the report, in 1966 nearly 29 percent of Americans over age 65 lived in poverty. In 2010, that number was down to 9 percent.

 Bread for the World credits in large part the federal safety-net programs Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid for lowering that percentage.

 The report also cites two programs for stemming the tide of hunger among the elderly: the former food stamp program, now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, or CSFP.

 “The cost of hunger on a society is devastating,” said Williams. “You have a natural resource, you have people who have been productive in society and now find themselves in a situation where they are not able to feed themselves. They are losing their homes because of the recession.”

 The Bread for the World analysis is in response to a recent proposed cut to the SNAP program, which has seen a 77% increase in participation over the last 5 years.

 It currently has a budget of about 90 billion dollars and serves 46 million people, including 3 million elderly, according to the U.S House Agriculture Committee website. A bill in that committee would cut 169 billion dollars from the SNAP program over the next decade.

 “I understand that we need to reduce the deficit,” said Williams. “We have places that can be cut but we don’t need to do it on the backs of poor and hungry people.”

 “What we really need is to be educated, to have some compassion, and to work for those kinds of things that will be beneficial for all of our citizens, because I think everybody counts.”

 Williams says as the fall election approaches, House and Senate candidates will be traveling their home states – a perfect opportunity for the voices of constituents to be heard.

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