The drought currently searing the Midwest is expected to send food prices soaring in 2012. Low corn yields mean higher prices on a range of items in the grocery aisles, from cereals to meat products. For the one in six Americans whose food budgets are already strained, higher food bills mean less food will reach their plates.
But things may soon get even worse for the nation’s hungry. This week, the House’s agricultural committee passed the farm bill, which was opposed by the Jewish Farm Bill Working Group. The draft calls for $1.6 billion in funding cuts, 80 percent of which will come from the food stamp program, reducing the amount of benefits allocated to the poor.
Rosa DeLauro, a Representative from Connecticut, opposes the bill. "Underfunding this critically important program when families temporarily rely on it to put food on the table in a tough economy is irresponsible and inhumane."
The bill will especially impact the working poor, who may find they no longer qualify under tighter restrictions. "America's children, seniors and 1.5 million veteran households facing a constant struggle against hunger deserve better from Congress," Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said in response to the proposal.
In New York City alone, the Metropolitan Council on Jewish poverty estimates that 250,000 Jewish people earn less than 150 percent of the federal poverty guideline, and many of the poorest are seniors and young children. Another 104,000 live in “near poverty.” Under the current proposal passed by the House, many of these households will face greater food insecurity.
Despite this week’s set back in Congress, the Jewish Farm Bill Working Group vows to continue to advocate for these Jewish households and all the hungry in the nation. “The link between food and faith obligates us as Jews to challenge the injustice of hunger [and] champion the right to food,” the group writes on their 2012 Jewish Platform for a Just Farm Bill.