US Families’ Hunger Woes Growing

GOP Targets Food Aid Cuts for Millions

“It’s already hard enough for parents to make ends meet and now they’re being put at the center of these dangerous political games,” said one advocate.

by Julia Conley, courtesy of commondreams.org

As Republican lawmakers on Friday, May 19, 2023 walked away from negotiations over raising the United States’ arbitrary debt limit, claiming the Biden administration has been “unreasonable” in its refusal to accept steep spending cuts, a new survey showed how a majority of U.S. families are already struggling to afford essentials that would become even less accessible if the GOP gets its way.

ParentsTogether Action released the results of a survey taken this month of nearly 500 low- and middle-income families, finding that 75% of parents who benefit from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) would be unable to provide their families with nutritious foods without the program, whose funding would be reduced by 12%—$800 million—under the debt ceiling plan put forward by the Republicans.

More than half of WIC recipients told ParentsTogether that they would not have been able to afford food for themselves and would have been forced to forgo eating meals to feed their children if it weren’t for the program. Sixty-four percent of recipients said they would have been unable to afford formula for their infants and 35% said they would not have had the breastfeeding support they needed.

1 out 5 kids in the U.S. either suffer from hunger or wonder where they will get their next meal. In this 2015 video, Lucy Melcher, No Kid Hungry’s Associate Director for Advocacy, talks with Bill Press about childhood hunger in the United States.

Currently 53% of all infants born in the U.S. benefit from financial and nutritional assistance through WIC, up from 43% in 2021, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Biden administration has warned that the cuts proposed by House Republicans would lead to a loss of crucial food, formula, and breastfeeding assistance for as many as 1.7 million women, children, and infants.

Ailen Arreaza, executive director of ParentsTogether, said in a statement that the GOP’s strategy “will backfire.”

“Republicans’ proposed budget illustrates just how far they’re willing to go to protect billionaires and corporations. Their cruel plan to take WIC away from 1.7 million pregnant or postpartum parents and their babies—leaving countless infants without the formula they need to survive and taking away nutritious food from breastfeeding mothers—is not going unnoticed,” she said.

“Republicans are holding parents, children, and grandparents hostage by threatening to default on our debt if they don’t get the budget cuts they’re demanding,” Arreaza added. “It’s already hard enough for parents to make ends meet and now they’re being put at the center of these dangerous political games.”

As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) said, House Republicans released their fiscal year 2024 agriculture appropriations bill this week, including the “harmful policy changes and deep funding cuts” needed to “adhere to the austere funding caps” included in the party’s debt ceiling proposal.

“To cut funding without putting eligible applicants on waiting lists, the bill guts the increase to benefits for fruit and vegetables that has been in place since 2021 and was implemented based on a recommendation by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine,” wrote CBPP senior policy analysts Katie Bergh and Zoë Neuberger. “This would cut benefits for nearly 1.5 million pregnant, postpartum, or breastfeeding participants and roughly 3.5 million children aged 1 through 4.”

One million adults aged 50 to 55 would also be excluded from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) if they can’t meet work requirements proposed by the GOP. The agriculture appropriations bill, said Brian Dittmeier, senior director of public policy for the National WIC Association, offers “a preview of the clear consequences when Congress arbitrarily caps federal spending.”

“Folks need to remember that these efforts to shrink the pie of federal spending are completely disassociated from the actual need of families in this country,” said Dittmeier. “When there’s growing need for WIC, slashing benefits is far from the right answer.”

The survey by ParentsTogether also suggested that the GOP’s cuts to food assistance would further reduce the ability of parents across the country to save money for emergencies.

Seventy percent of respondents told the group that rising costs of food, housing, and other essentials have left them unable to save for the future any longer, and 64% said they’ve already had to spend some of their savings or emergency funds.