U.S. CONGRESSMAN JIM MCGOVERN (MA02) END HUNGER NOW SPEECH: #FillUpYourPlate
February 26, 2015
M. Speaker, in 2013, I participated in my first “Monte’s March” to raise money for The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. Along with my friend, local radio host Monte Bel Monte – and several others - we walked 26 miles in one day through western Massachusetts.
Along the way we stopped at the Amherst Survival Center, where low-income people can go to receive food, clothing, medical advice and a number of other services to help them through hard times. The executive director handed me a stack of paper plates. On the plates, people who used the Amherst Survival Center had written how hunger had impacted their lives.
Inspired by this simple yet powerful message, last Thursday I launched #FillUpYourPlate on my website at mcgovern.house.gov. It’s a place where people can tell me what SNAP, or food stamps, means to them or how hunger has impacted their lives. Responses are posted on my website to create a wall of virtual paper plates.
M. Speaker, yesterday the House Agriculture Committee – where I am proud to serve – held the first hearing in its “top-to-bottom” review of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.
SNAP is the nation’s pre-eminent anti-hunger program that provides critical food assistance to more than 46 million Americans. Last year, 16 million children – or 1 in 5 American children – relied on SNAP. Unfortunately, every indication is that Republicans will once again try to cut this critical safety-net program.
M. Speaker, I fully support rigorous oversight of federal programs. But we shouldn’t single SNAP out for aggressive or unnecessary scrutiny. It already has one of the lowest error rates among all federal programs. And, CBO projections show that it SNAP caseloads and spending are expected to fall as our economy continues to improve.
One of the reasons I started the #FillUpYourPlate campaign was to make sure that the voices of those who use SNAP - who are struggling to make ends meet – are heard in the discussion here in Washington. All too often, the real stories and struggles of those who are struggling in get drowned out by false rhetoric and partisan talking points.
M. Speaker, so far I’ve received more than 100 virtual paper plates. I want to read just a few of the messages.
From Michelle: "SNAP means that many junior ranking members’ families will not go hungry while their military spouses are away defending this nation."
From Patricia: "I am a single mother of two. I currently work at Dunkin Donuts. If my SNAP benefits got cut I would not be able to pay my rent because I would be spending all of my paychecks on food for my children. I lived in a homeless shelter for a year before coming to my apartment in October of 2014. If my SNAP benefits are cut I'll be back in a shelter. I do not plan on being on SNAP benefits forever. I would like to finish my degree and get a job that will support my household without any assistance but for now I need the help."
From Cherise: "It means my children won’t go to bed hungry and can function better in school because they have food in their bellies. It also lets me buy more healthy and fresh foods I wouldn't have access to if I had to pay out of pocket. I am grateful for this program. There is no joy in watching children struggle over something so easily prevented."
From Sabine: "SNAP to my family means I don't have to choose between paying the lights or making sure I feed my son breakfast in the morning. Having my SNAP benefits takes a huge load off my $243 take home checks from work a week. With SNAP my son is guaranteed food in his tummy."
From David: "It meant my family was still able to eat while I was between jobs. My wife had to quit her job to stay at home and take care of our special-needs daughter. A month after the birth of our second daughter I lost my job, and went almost a year before finding a job that paid enough to provide for our family. At one time I was holding four part-time jobs at the same time. I never thought I would have to rely on government assistance, but now don't know how we would have gotten by without it."
M. Speaker, I am committed to make sure the voices of those who rely on SNAP are heard in the debates here in Washington and I am committed to End Hunger Now.
I encourage people to visit my website at mcgovern.house.gov to share what SNAP means to them.