Hunger is a very real and mounting problem in our community. The Community FoodBank of New Jersey reports that, since 2008, demand for their services has increased by an unprecedented 46 percent. Much of the need has come from families who were firmly anchored in the middle class until, through no fault of their own, they suffered a job loss in the recession.
Yet even as the toll of hunger has increased, the House Majority has sought to radically cut programs that fight hunger in New Jersey and across America. The Ryan Budget, which I opposed, would slash the Food Stamp program by $36 billion over 10 years, leading 2 million Americans to lose access to Food Stamps and curtailing benefits for 44 million more.
Let’s be clear: Food Stamps already provide only the barest of safety nets to vulnerable families. The average benefit is just $31.50 per week – about a dollar and a half per meal. If you are fortunate enough to ordinarily live on a much more comfortable food budget, I encourage you to try purchasing a week’s worth of food at this price, as I did late last year. You will discover, in a profound and troubling way, the fragility of our safety-net programs. Now imagine how much more difficult your task would be if Food Stamps were cut further!
The Ryan Budget would do even more to take food off the table of the hungry. It would permanently eliminate the Social Services Block Grant program, which provides vital support for Meals on Wheels, child care, and child protective services. New Jersey has received $48.1 million through this program in 2012 alone.
In a time of great need, I find it incomprehensible that the Republican majority would further shred our social safety net in order to cut taxes on millionaires and preserve a bloated Defense Department budget.
This is one in a series on the impact of the so-called Ryan Budget, the House Majority’s plan for the federal government. The budget passed the U.S. House of Representatives in March on a mostly party-line vote.
U.S. Congressman Rush Holt (D) represents New Jersey’s 12th District. A researcher and educator, he holds a Ph.D. in physics from New York University.