The recent tornadoes and flooding in the Midwest and South are an unmitigated tragedy, and it is wonderful to see the offers of help and acts of kindness to alleviate the suffering of all those touched by the events. My heart goes out to all the people who have lost family and friends and the communities ravaged by storm and flood.
This is a time when everyone, regardless of political persuasion or philosophical bent looks to our federal government for assistance, and rightly so. Many people have been left with nothing but the clothes on their backs. They may have lost their homes, businesses and jobs. The federal government steps in with emergency SNAP (formerly food stamps) benefits, emergency housing benefits, unemployment benefits and grants and low interest loans to get small businesses and employers back on track as quickly as possible. There is no hand-wringing about budgets or deficits or debt ceilings. All we are concerned with is taking care of our neighbors.
The cold truth, however, is that personal disasters happen every day. People lose their jobs or their homes, become injured or ill, or suffer some other individual tragedy that sends their lives into a downward spiral. There are no newspaper headlines or donation hotlines for these tragedies, but our neighbors rely on those same federal programs to keep them going until they can get back on their feet.
We all need to be aware that many federal and state government safety net programs need to be there when one person needs them, as much as when a whole community needs them. Yet there is considerable uncertainty about funding levels for food and nutrition and other safety net programs in the federal budget. It is neither fair nor just for a country like ours to allow hunger to exist. This country has the money, the food, the programs and the people necessary to make sure everyone is fed well. The only thing lacking is the political will. We will end hunger when we choose to,, and not before.
Ending hunger transforms lives, and can transform our society. Let’s make it happen.