Skip to content

You Tell Us: Local food banks can’t shoulder $33 billion in food assistance cuts

on April 26, 2012

In case you missed it, our elected officials voted last week to make more Americans go hungry — denying reality, evading responsibility and spurning morality.

Charged with finding $42 billion in cuts to domestic programs, the House voted to cut $33 billion of food assistance from our nation’s hungry — children, seniors, working families and the disabled.

That’s billion … with a B.

Some who voted for this cut justify it by arguing that the nation’s poor have food banks to rely on.

Whether these statements are simply naïve or maliciously misleading, one thing is certain: they’re false. The burden of $33 billion in federal assistance being shifted to a network of non-profits is nothing short of preposterous.

That $33 billion is equal to the budget of nearly every food bank in America, many times over. This isn’t a cut — it’s an amputation.

Long ago, we rejected the idea that anyone should go hungry in the richest country on earth. If this cut takes effect, fewer families will be able to put food on the table; the quality of the food they have will decrease; and problems ranging from academic failure to malnutrition will increase nationwide.

And our neighborhood grocery stores? They’ll be out $33 billion too, because that’s where that assistance is spent.

But the message our legislators are sending is, “That’s OK.”

It’s not okay. It’s unacceptable.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP (CalFresh in California, formerly known as food stamps) is one of the most effective federal programs ever created – lifting people out of poverty and providing a crucial bridge during hard times.

This recession has been long, and hard on those already vulnerable. We’ve been incredibly lucky that our community has stepped up in great numbers to donate and volunteer to help us meet the need.

But our neighbors already line up for up to 2 hours for simple staples like bread, potatoes and onions. Nearly 1 in 4 children in America are fed by SNAP. Seniors are facing the choice between food and medicine. Parents are skipping meals so their children can eat.

Food banks need more supply, not more demand.

There’s a legitimate debate going on in Congress about whether millionaires should be required to pay a minimum tax rate — meanwhile, our nation’s poorest and most vulnerable are cast aside with little fanfare.

The American people deserve a budget that reflects our values. Seventy-seven percent of Americans believe that cutting SNAP is the wrong way to reduce spending. We agree.

Congress is elected by us–but many aren’t are living up to their one and only task of representing us. Let’s make sure they don’t get away with taking food off our neighbors’ tables in the name of fiscal responsibility.

Suzan Bateson is the executive director of the Alameda County Community Food Bank.


You Tell Us is Oakland North’s community Op-Ed page, featuring opinion pieces submitted by readers on Oakland-related topics. Have something to say? Send essays of 500-1,000 words to We’d love to hear from you!

All essays reflect the opinions of their authors, and not of the Oakland North staff or the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Oakland North reserves the right to edit submissions for length, clarity and spelling/grammar. Oakland North does not pay for the the publication of opinion pieces. You Tell Us submissions must be written in civil and non-offensive language. We do not publish hate speech, libelous material, unsubstantiated allegations or rumors, or personal attacks on individuals or groups.


  1. livegreen on April 26, 2012 at 4:19 pm

    Thank you for this article. It’s a good reminder for a moderate why I still vote Democratic. And why we need moderate, reality based political parties. NOT extremists.

  2. Sf2oak on April 26, 2012 at 10:53 pm

    Im very interested in what Alameda county food bank is going through. I give. I used to give food, pretty much my old pantry items. Then I started giving a check because I read that for every $1 it would buy $5 worth of food. The food bank ought to be able to purchase wholesale & what they need. Friends have told me though the act of giving actual food has a different effect on the psyche. What say you?

  3. CF on April 30, 2012 at 8:34 pm

    This commentary does an excellent job of framing the false choices being made by Congress right now. But I think it’s important to note that the House budget vote was widely believed to be a symbolic, election year tactic to force Congresspeople onto the record about whether they support SNAP or defense spending (another ridiculous set of choices).

    A few days after the House vote, the Senate Agriculture Committee voted on their draft of the Farm Bill, which authorizes SNAP spending. This draft has much more of a chance at becoming reality than the House’s budget bill. SNAP was cut by “only” $4 billion. This level of cut, especially in the current economy, will strain the emergency food system, including our local food bank.

    The House Agriculture Committee is currently holding hearings on the Farm Bill and is expected to follow the Senate’s lead in writing a Farm Bill. Anyone who cares about nutrition and SNAP should track this process.

Oakland North welcomes comments from our readers, but we ask users to keep all discussion civil and on-topic. Comments post automatically without review from our staff, but we reserve the right to delete material that is libelous, a personal attack, or spam. We request that commenters consistently use the same login name. Comments from the same user posted under multiple aliases may be deleted. Oakland North assumes no liability for comments posted to the site and no endorsement is implied; commenters are solely responsible for their own content.

Photo by Basil D Soufi
Oakland North

Oakland North is an online news service produced by students at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and covering Oakland, California. Our goals are to improve local coverage, innovate with digital media, and listen to you–about the issues that concern you and the reporting you’d like to see in your community. Please send news tips to:

Latest Posts

Scroll To Top