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U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern's 13th "End Hunger Now" speech: Food Stamps Work

People ask me all the time - is it even possible to End Hunger in America? M. Speaker - the answer is a definitive yes.

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Washington, DC, June 5, 2013 | comments
People ask me all the time - is it even possible to End Hunger in America? M. Speaker - the answer is a definitive yes.
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Statement of Congressman James P. McGovern
June 5, 2013

M. Speaker - this is my 13th End Hunger Now speech this year. Thirteen times I've stood on this floor and talked about hunger in America. Thirteen times I've come here and defended the anti-hunger safety net - the federal programs that provide food to 50 million Americans. Thirteen times I've stood here and talked about hunger as a health issue. Thirteen times I've said we need to set a goal to End Hunger Now.

People ask me all the time - is it even possible to End Hunger in America? M. Speaker - the answer is a definitive yes.

The truth is we've done this before. That's right, M. Speaker, we nearly eradicated hunger in America in the 1970s. It wasn't easy, but the concept was simple - the political leadership in Washington made a commitment to end hunger in this country.

In the 1970s, Congress and the President expanded the Food Stamp Program, created the WIC program, and expanded the school meal programs. They found the political courage to do what's right - to step up when the private sector couldn't do and end hunger in America.

Yet that effort was lost when these programs were slashed in the 1980s. Hunger came back with a vengeance. The number of hungry people skyrocketed - in fact it's been rising steadily since the Reagan presidency. These programs weren't just cut, they were demonized. Food assistance became a pejorative to some. And we see the results of those years of demonizing these programs today.

The truth is SNAP works. Food assistance works. People on food assistance are able to feed themselves and their families. They're able to use money they might have had to use for food for other purposes - rent, utilities, medical costs, school supplies for their kids, and transportation costs, just to name a few. But that's not all. The money spent on food from these programs is spent in grocery stores. In fact, one report showed that approximately $70 billion was spent in grocery stores just from SNAP alone. That's a lot of money going through our economy when our damaged economy needed it most.

These programs work, M. Speaker. But what's the response from this Republican controlled House? Are they strengthening a program that is already among the least fraudulent, most efficient and effective federal programs?

No.

In two weeks this House will consider a bill to cut $20 billion from SNAP - a bill that will take food away from 2 million Americans; a bill that will take 210,000 poor kids off the free school meal program; a bill that will reduce the monthly SNAP by $90 for another 850,000 people. And that's on top of the automatic, across-the-board cuts to SNAP that will take place in November.

That's cold hearted and mean spirited and I will fight these cuts.

We should be praising this program for keeping people from starving. We should be strengthening it and making it work better, not neutering it and taking food away from millions of poor families.

SNAP works. But don't take my word for it. Listen to the words of Trish Thomas Henley, someone who had to rely on SNAP to make ends meet. She says, quote,

-In 1993, I was a single parent with a 3-year old and an 18-month old. Even though I was working full-time, making $8.50 an hour as an administrative assistant, I could not afford to pay for food, housing and day care. I went on food stamps. I remember the shame I felt every time I stood at the register while other shoppers waited for me to count out my food stamps.

The only way out of the cycle of poverty and off of aid was to go to college. I applied and, at the age of 25, began my undergraduate career. I had to give up my full-time job to go to school. Instead, I worked three part-time jobs.

I would never, ever have been able to get through school without food stamps, Pell Grants and student loans. It took a village and government aid. I was not a victim. I did not feel entitled. I, then as now, felt immensely grateful that I lived at a moment when my government chose to invest in me. It has been a smart investment. I am greateful that because of this investment I am now able to contribute and live up to my full potential.- - end quote.

Today, Trish is a professor at the University of Cincinnati. You see, M. Speaker, a little investment goes a long way. I ask unanimous consent to insert in the record at the end my remarks the column written by Trish entitled -Food Stamps do work.-

SNAP works. It worked in the 1970s as the Food Stamp program. It worked for Trish in the 1990s. And it's working now. This is not the time to cut SNAP. Now is the time to renew our efforts and pledge to End Hunger Now.

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