Evangelical Lutherans oppose US food cuts hitting the poorest

By staff writers
October 27, 2013

In an effort to ensure that families across the United States receive adequate access to food, members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) are asking members of Congress to oppose the proposed cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP.

The proposed changes to the SNAP programme would cut or eliminate benefits for millions of people at a time when high unemployment and underemployment rates mean that families struggle to put food on the table, according to an October ELCA advocacy alert.

“Part of what we do through ELCA World Hunger is to advocate for adequate and full funding of essential programmes like SNAP, because we know we can and must engage the issue in multiple ways,” said Mikka McCracken, programme director for ELCA World Hunger constituent engagement.

Food pantries and meal programs of ELCA congregations have been seeing and will continue to experience an increase in food supply needs, said McCracken. She said food provided by US charities amounts to only about 6 percent of the food distributed by federal food programmes, such as SNAP and school meals.

Grace Lutheran Church, an ELCA congregation in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, houses a food pantry supported by 16 local churches. Susan Papierski, executive director of the food pantry, said that the assistance provided for people at the pantry is not enough. The pantry doesn’t “completely feed them” and any further cuts to benefits would have a greater, negative impact on these individuals and families, she said.

“They still have bills to pay - rent, electricity, child care – and their SNAP benefits have been a supplement to that. Where will they go? What will they do? There will be more and more demand on food pantries to help [people] out,” said Papierski.

In the past two years, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of people who visit the food pantry, which serves about 1,200 people a month, said the Rev Richard Likeness, pastor of Grace. The situation “is dire and definitely a concern.”

The proposed cuts to SNAP would not only place extra stress on individuals and families but to Lutheran social ministry organisations.

“Lutheran Services in America’s 300-plus members are a part of communities across the country, and many of them serve families and individuals that rely on SNAP and similar programmes,” said Charlotte Haberaecker, president and CEO of Lutheran Services in America.

“The consequences of cuts could be far-reaching, and our concern is that this would put additional strain on the most vulnerable people and on health and human services organisations working in the communities that are already facing enormous changes and challenges,” she said.

“We work with the poorest of the poor - people who are already food insecure. Cutting SNAP will result in children going to bed hungry. It's as simple as that,” said Sam Sipes, president and chief executive officer of Lutheran Social Services Florida - an affiliate agency of the ELCA.

“We know that we cannot end hunger alone, nor can we feed every person who is hungry. But in talking with hunger leaders and volunteers, we are doing everything we can through our [congregations] and ministries in communities. It’s time our elected officials do the same and do their part,” said McCracken.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with about 4 million members in nearly 10,000 congregations across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region.

* More information about ELCA World Hunger can be found at http://www.ELCA.org/hunger.

* The ELCA advocacy alert on SNAP was published on 16 October 2013 in support of World Food Day. It is available at http://www.capwiz.com/elca/issues/alert/?alertid=62968346.

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