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The Hidden Struggles of Hunger

Every day, millions of Americans struggle to feed their
families due to the growing cost of food prices and lack of substantial
assistance.  The reality of this issue
affects more people than it should. Having to choose between putting food on
the table or living comfortably is a challenge that many people face daily. The
government has cut funding and is restricting access to assistance programs,
forcing people to suffer and struggle just to buy food for their families. With
the cost of living growing higher and inflation continuing to increase, people
are having to make extreme sacrifices just to survive.

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            According
to the United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service, in
2016, the SNAP program provided assistance for roughly 44 million Americans.
The average monthly amount that was paid out to families was around $125 and
this was based on their income and the size of the household. According to
agency guidelines, in order for families to qualify for SNAP benefits, households
need to be at a certain point of the poverty line which is about $26,000 or
less a year for a family of three. This cost the government around $70 billion
for the year 2016. Yes, that does sound like a lot of money for an assistance
program but when looking at it from a bigger picture and comparing it to the reality
of the cost of groceries, it is not nearly enough. The cost of living has drastically
increased over the last several years and many families are struggling to keep
food on the table, clothes on their children’s back, and their household
intact. Now speaking from experience, a family of three on an annual income of
$26,000 or less is a ridiculously, unreasonable amount to assume they would be
able to live a stress-free life style without some sort of significant assistance.

An important concern that officials seem to ignore is the
family of three that make around $30,000 a year that don’t qualify for
government assistance because they don’t meet some certain criteria, yet, they
don’t make enough to survive without the constant struggle of stress and worry.
These individuals are left to live pay check to pay check and being forced to
choose what food they can afford based on their income for the rest of the
month. Worrying about things like, how will to feed their kids for the week?
What bills can they extend to keep extra money for groceries? What can they go
without this month just to manage to put food on the table? There are
restrictions put in place for people who don’t fit their “poverty” standards
but don’t necessarily fit the middle class either because they are still
considered low income. There are not enough programs in place to assist these
people with a better, healthier way of life. These issues are a reality that
millions of hardworking, good people struggle with day in and day out but
cannot get any type of assistance. This results in people taking drastic or
harmful measures just to provide for their family.

The majority of SNAP households are families with children,
seniors, or people with disabilities. Eliminating or reducing these benefits
will take away necessary assistance from those who need it most. It restricts
access to a healthy and nourished way of living by allowing these families to
go without. Obesity and poverty share a very close relationship. Unfortunately,
families living in poverty have very limited budgets which eventually leads to
limited food choices. Most of the time, they must often stretch supplies until the
next paycheck comes in or when the food stamps arrive. This can lead to
unhealthy behaviors in a variety of different ways. For instance, people tend
to choose foods high in fat and sugars such as cereals and processed products,
because these foods are more affordable and last longer than fresh vegetables,
fruits and lean meats. Compared to those who are wealthy, adolescents in
impoverished families and communities are more likely to be obese in young adulthood
due to the lack of nutritional availability and access to fresh, affordable
food. If the cost of food continues to rise, then there should be plans in
place to assist those in need. Raising the minimum wage or lessening the
restrictions on these programs would make a positive impact on millions of
families.

 

It is time for a plan of action. With the cost of living and
inflation, people cannot continue to live like this. Rather than putting
measures in place to provide additional funding for these programs, the
government is attempting to drastically cut and restrict benefits. According to
recent reports, the House Budget Committee approved a budget plan would cut the
SNAP program by more than $150 billion, over 20%, over the next ten years. The
new administration’s recent proposed plan to cut 25% to the program would have
a devastating impact on millions of families. But unfortunately, this is just
the beginning of the proposals to cut government funding from community
programs like SNAP and WIC. We must reach out to our local legislators and come
up with a solution to this nation-wide problem. For example, we can start by requesting
the limitations on certain income vs living ratio be reevaluated and revised.
Also, we need the criteria for government assistance approval to be based on
realistic standards, offering more availability for for all families in need.
By putting a plan in place to reduce the cost of food

prices and cost of living expenses, the government would be benefiting
themselves by not having to overfund these programs because there won’t be such
a high demand for them. If more families could earn higher wages to match
inflation, the need for government assistance would be drastically reduced. We
all know this will take several adjustments to laws and policies that are
already put in place so being vocal about these issues is the best thing we can
do at this point.

 

In the meantime, we can focus on community outreach and
locally providing assistance to help the hungry. Petitioning to expand federal
and local funding to programs that benefit the community, such as food banks
and nonprofit organizations, and being vocal about these issues will create an
impact. Suggest better regulations of these programs and provide healthier
options that will change the program guidelines. Giving people the ability to
afford healthier food choices, provide discounts on buying fruits and
vegetables, and increase supply of healthy foods at a lower cost will provide
low income families with a healthier option of living. It is up to us to make a
change. Our government is not providing any reasonable solutions for this
nation wide epidemic so it’s up to our community to make a difference. Start a
petition with your local county court. File an initiative or referendum. Obtain
the support of your state or national legislator. Start a movement and help support
these hardworking, every day people who struggle every day. It is our
obligation to help and support our community in need. These people are
struggling to survive and making sacrifices to feed their families that they
shouldn’t have to. Our government can find funding and come up with solutions
for these issues if pushed. If there is anything that our nation’s most recent
events have taught us, it’s that our voices can make a difference. It’s time to
stand up for what’s right. It’s time to stand up to hunger.  

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