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Letter to the Editor: A vital hunger-fighting program for local families

The Reporter, 

Back to school season is upon us, and parents everywhere are checking all the necessary supplies off their children’s list—pencils, crayons, notebooks, erasers.

But the one basic school supply that won’t appear on most lists? Food.

Across the Greater Philadelphia region, one in five children struggles with hunger – putting them at-risk of having to repeat a grade, developing language, motor skill and behavioral issues and missing more school because of illnesses than their fellow students. Last year alone, in Montgomery County, more than 22,000 children faced hunger daily, according to the 2016 American Community Survey, and more than 34,000 children participated in the free or reduced cost school lunch program at school, according to the 2017-2018 Pennsylvania Department of Education National School Lunch Program report.

These issues do not exist in a vacuum, and are not confined to urban pockets. Hunger knows no boundary, and the effects of poverty spread across all zip codes, holding our entire region back from reaching its full potential. Collectively, we need to raise our voices and do more.

One of our nation’s largest and most effective hunger-fighting programs is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP. It provides timely, targeted and temporary support to low-income households for the purchase of food. Though modest—averaging only about $1.40 per person per meal—it serves as a lifeline for those receiving the benefit, of which 88 percent of SNAP households include children, seniors or persons with disabilities. Additionally, SNAP Employment & Training dollars help workers prepare for and secure stable jobs, and connect parents and children with healthy food options in neighborhoods with limited fresh food options.

On September 30, this vital anti-hunger program is set to expire. This means an estimated 77,000 individuals and 22,000 children in Montgomery County who are food insecure may not have access to this critical support, according to the 2016 American Community Survey. It means that approximately 52,250 individuals in Montgomery County could sink deeper into poverty, and more than 13,600 children could become trapped in its generational cycle, as reported by 2016 U.S. Census Data. Together, we must raise our voices in protecting SNAP in the Farm Bill, and advocate for these priorities:

  • Protecting and strengthening SNAP to maintain its responsiveness to combat hunger and provide financial stability.
  • Ensuring policies promote access and facilitate enrollment rather than create roadblocks.
  • Supporting working families.

Join us and urge your elected officials to protect SNAP in the Farm Bill. Sign on at www.UnitedForImpact.org/advocate and click “take action and support SNAP.”

John Emge
Vice President & Regional Executive Director
United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey
jemge@uwgpsnj.org

Chari Richardson
Montgomery County Local Board Chair & Regional Board Member
United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey
Chari.Richardson@trcstaffing.com

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