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National religious leaders, members of Congress, senior Obama Administration officials, and current Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps) recipients gathered at a Safeway supermarket in Washington today to undertake a shopping trip for a week’s worth of groceries on the average SNAP allotment of $31.50. As Congress mulls cutting the program’s budget, the religious community is spearheading a campaign to raise public awareness of the realities of hunger and poverty.
The “Food Stamp Challenge” event marks the kickoff of the 4th annual Fighting Poverty with Faith mobilization, co-sponsored by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Catholic Charities USA, and the National Council of Churches and including more than 50 national faith organizations.
Event participants included White House senior advisor Valerie Jarrett, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Dr. Kathleen Merrigan, Catholic Charities USA President Rev. Larry Snyder, Jewish Council for Public Affairs President Rabbi Steve Gutow, National Council of Churches President Rev. Peg Chemberlin, Islamic Society of North America’s National Director of Interfaith and Community Alliances Dr. Sayyid Syeed, and local SNAP recipients.
“The goal of the Food Stamp Challenge is to engage Americans of every faith and bring the realities of hunger to those across the country unaware of its pervasiveness and challenges; especially here, at Congress’s doorstep,” said Gutow. “If we are to get serious about ending hunger, which we have the tools to do, it cannot be an abstract idea for us. Understanding the challenges of feeding yourself -- let alone providing healthy meals for kids, who make up over half of SNAP recipients -- on just $31.50 for one week will help others know just how valuable SNAP is. America is an abundant nation, but that abundance is not seen in the carts of the tens of millions who live on SNAP. Before Congress decides that this program can be cut, we urge them to look at how little we’re able to put in our carts with this budget and see how millions are getting by.”
Members of the public can sign up to take the National Food Stamp Challenge at http://engage.jewishpublicaffairs.org/c/637/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=7987.