At United Way, we believe communities are stronger when our neighbors have food on their table, a roof over their head, and gas in their car so they can get to work.
This is not an unreasonable hope, but, unfortunately, too many families are struggling to make ends meet presently. And for those who are just getting by, they may now fall short with changes Congress just recently proposed.
A House bill is threatening to reduce or remove food assistance from nearly 2 million families, composed of both working families and individuals who are without work, through deep cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which helps families that fall on tough times get access to food while they get back on their feet, and helps workers in low-wage jobs make ends meet.
If these cuts go into effect, these families would now face food insecurity and fall deeper into debt and even poverty.
Food insecurity refers to USDA’s measure of lack of access, at times, to enough food for an active, healthy lifestyle for all household members and limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate foods. Food insecure households are not necessarily food insecure all of the time. Food insecurity may reflect a household’s need to make trade-offs between important basic needs, such as housing or medical bills, and purchasing nutritionally adequate foods.
Not only are these recipients facing cuts, but it could not happen at a worse time for families with school-age children. Summer often adds extra stress for families whose children are eligible for free or reduced-price school lunches during the school year. With school now out for the summer, these families are now forced to try and make ends meet with an even larger grocery bill.
In Middlesex County, approximately 20 percent of children are eligible for the Free- and Reduced-Price School Lunch Program. Some towns honor this in the summer as well, but it is not guaranteed and not as easily accessible with work schedules and other obligations. Fortunately, a bipartisan Senate bill is also being proposed that would largely preserve, and even improve, SNAP benefits.
If this is a cause that you want to help, there are ways locally you can get involved. If you contribute to Middlesex United Way, you already support our local food banks. Part of all donations goes to support programs at Amazing Grace Food Pantry and Shoreline Soup Kitchens & Pantries.
We encourage everyone to educate yourselves on this matter, and make your voice heard for causes you believe in! Together we work to make our community one that is safe, stable and successful.
Kevin Wilhelm is president and CEO of the Middlesex United Way in Middletown.