America may be one of the wealthiest countries in the world, but you wouldn't know it by looking at the number of people who go hungry each day. A staggering 16 million kids in this country live in homes where food isn't a sure thing. They don't know where their next meal will come from -- or if there will be a meal at all.
This simply shouldn't happen in a nation as advanced as ours. That's why federal food assistance programs like SNAP (formerly known as the food stamp program) were put into place. They've ensured that no matter what else happens, Americans are able to meet their most basic human need. But now these essential food programs are under attack.
Last week, Republicans in the House of Representatives voted to strip the nutrition title, which includes SNAP and other food assistance, from the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management (FARRM) Act of 2013. The House then passed the altered bill on a 216-208 vote.
This is very bad news. The SNAP program provides 47 million people with the assistance they need to buy the food our farmers grow. For nearly forty years, food assistance has been included in the Farm Bill, drawing bipartisan support and unifying urban and rural Americans by addressing common needs. As Representative Marcia Fudge (D-OH) explained, "Farmers and ranchers need certainty, and so do the families and seniors who are struggling to put food on the table."
If SNAP isn't included as part of the Farm Bill, it will most certainly face deep, devastating cuts that will push vulnerable Americans closer to the edge.
This is exactly the opposite of what our leaders should be doing. At a time when millions of families in this country face joblessness and poverty, we need to work harder than ever to make sure they have a fighting chance. Too many Americans are still unable to make ends meet. By the last count, 42.7 million people -- 14.3 percent of our country's population -- had income below the poverty level. As these folks struggle to escape poverty and overcome hardships, they should at least be able to count on one thing: they won't go hungry.
Food isn't a luxury. It's a fundamental resource. Our country can't ever truly prosper or act as a leader in the global economy when our own kids don't have enough to eat. If we want to get America on its feet again, we need to first stabilize the growing number of vulnerable communities -- and that begins with food security.
Yanking food programs from the Farm Bill is an unprecedented move to further squeeze the most vulnerable among us: the hungry and the poor. While President Obama would likely veto a Farm Bill without SNAP, the threat to low-income Americans is very real.
It raises a fundamental question about what we value in this country. Making sure our neighbors and the children in our communities get enough food to eat -- no matter what else happens to them -- is a key part of the social contract that binds us together. It's one of our most basic moral obligations. And it shouldn't be up for debate.