Most people assume the debt ceiling deal will make our work in meeting the president's goal of ending childhood hunger by 2015 even harder. In the broad sense that is likely to be the case, especially because the nation's economic growth is much slower than expected and the mandated budget cuts are unlikely to change that, and if anything could make it worse. Also, some important hunger programs like the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infant and Children (WIC) and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program face potential cuts.
But while there is not much in the deal to be happy about, there are some rays of light regarding the specific anti-hunger and child nutrition programs that are core to the No Kid Hungry Campaign strategy that governors of both parties from around the country have been embracing. Here are three examples:
First, the entitlement programs that are the focus of our efforts to enroll more children: e.g. school breakfast, summer meals, and food stamps are not included in the proposed cuts. Although that could change in the future, this means everything we are doing in our No Kid Hungry state campaigns has as great a potential as ever to dramatically reduce and eventually end childhood hunger.
Second, the debt ceiling package reflects an implicit bi-partisan endorsement of Share Our Strength's strategy, which is based on the conviction that these programs work, they protect those most vulnerable and least responsible for their situation, and that they should be protected even when the economy and the political climate change -- perhaps especially when the economy and political climate change.
Third, the legislative cuts in non-entitlement discretionary spending make our strategy all the more necessary and important. As other essential services, especially in health and education are cut, the safety net represented by the child nutrition entitlement programs stands out as all the more vital an oasis in the desert.
Share Our Strength and all of the local hunger advocacy groups who are our partners remain more determined than ever to expand our No Kid Hungry Campaign. The debt ceiling package creates a renewed sense of urgency, to protect more children by ensuring they are enrolled in programs available where they live learn and play. Those who are passionate about our children's future should join efforts to advocate for the vital role these programs play and to protect them from cuts, especially as the new Congressional Joint Committee debates their future.