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

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!

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  1. livegreen

    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

    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?

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