Love Thy Neighbor: True measure of society is how we care for the needy


Editor’s note: As our country endures a time of great divisiveness, Bread Blog begins a series today that reminds us of God’s commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Blog posts will be written by members of the church relations department at Bread for the World.

By Divya Desai

We must stand together in opposition to those who would prey on those who do not have enough food. We must stand up our beliefs. And we must provide a way for their voices to be heard as we remember to “do unto others what you would have them do unto you.” (Matthew 7:12)

As a woman of faith, I follow the statements of Pope Francis with great interest.  The pope has dedicated his life to serving all God’s people and his deep commitment to caring for those trapped in poverty inspires me.

Many have said that the true measure of a society is how it cares for those in need. Pope Francis speaks often about how we are called to love our neighbor. He stated in the homily at his Installation Mass that we need to show our “loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about.”

In this country, one measure of our commitment to alleviating needless suffering is the availability of SNAP benefits. This program, formerly known as food stamps, serves as a vital source of aid to people and families facing hunger and food insecurity. In 2015 alone, SNAP helped 4.6 million Americans break the cycle of poverty and achieve independence.

The recently proposed fiscal year 2018 budget contains draconian cuts to SNAP and other key safety-net programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and the earned income tax credit. These programs serve as a safety-net for Americans who have fallen on hard times and need compassionate aid to get back on their feet. The suggested cuts fly in the face of core Christian values and should offend people of all faiths. If Congress enacts the horrifying budget cuts, it will be upsetting to know that more people will be hungry.

Because of the economic downturn, churches and charities are struggling to feed the hungry. One in 20 bags of food assistance comes from charitable organizations, while nutrition programs (TANF, SNAP, and WIC) help provide the rest. Deep cuts to these programs have already affected more than 47 million Americans and that number will only grow if Congress approves these cuts for the fiscal year 2018. We are inviting people across the United States to commit themselves to an intentional day of prayer and fasting once a month to advocate for Congress to protect nutrition programs.

Fully funding programs such as SNAP and TANF will alleviate hunger and poverty for millions of our American brothers and sisters. Individuals of all faiths and anyone who believes in Christian values must take action.

Divya Desai is a church relations intern at Bread for the World.

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