Republicans are pursuing policies aimed at starving children. Why isn’t it a national shame?

By | March 27, 2024

People will receive food on October 16 through a weekly distribution by the ICNA Relief Hunger Prevention Program in Brooklyn. After pandemic food assistance ended, more than 1.7 million New Yorkers rely on food stamps. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

There is an ongoing hunger crisis in America.


According to a report According to U.S. Department of Agriculture figures in 2022, as many as 44.2 million people lived in households that struggled to get enough food to feed everyone – up from 33.8 million the year before – and that figure included more than 13 million children facing food insecurity.

When the report was released, Minister of Agriculture said Tom Vilsack said in a statement: “These figures are more than statistics. They paint a picture of how many Americans faced the heartbreaking challenge of meeting a basic need for themselves and their children last year.”

Much of the fault lay with inflation — particularly rising grocery store costs — and the end of many pandemic-era programs that helped offset those woes.

The problem has not gotten better. I don’t need a report to confirm it. I can see it with my own eyes. When I walk through parts of Koreatown in Los Angeles or when I drive through the city on a Saturday morning and see long lines of people needing free food.

Or when I heard Kellogg’s CEO appeared on national television and gleefully shared the company’s strategy to “meet the customer where they are” and promote dinner cereal with new Tony the Tiger ads.

“The cereal category has always been quite affordable, and it tends to be a great destination when consumers are under pressure,” Gary Pilnick explains on CNBC’s ‘Squawk on the Street’.

“We need to meet consumers where they are, so we promote breakfast cereal for dinner. When you think about the cost of cereal for a family compared to what they would otherwise do, it becomes much more affordable.”

If only those who are struggling can eat the rich.

Congress, as futile as it usually may be, actually did something to try to directly help children suffering from this national disgrace.

It came in the form of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s new Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer program, modeled after Pandemic EBT, which helped families pay for their meals with a benefit-packed EBT card when schools, a well-known lifeline for tens of millions of childrenwere closed to in-person learning during the COVID crisis.

The Summer EBT program provides $120 per student to families who qualify for free and reduced-price lunch to cover the cost of groceries during the summer months.

Thanks to a government funding bill that Congress passed in December 2022, the program will become permanent. The USDA says the program could potentially reduce the number of children with very low food security by about a third. More than 21 million children will benefit once it starts in June.

The problem, however, is that so far only 35 states, five U.S. territories and four tribes plan to participate.

The deadline to join was early this year, and unfortunately, more than fifteen Republican governors have said they will withhold federal money to feed low-income children.

The Milk from the Heart program delivers weekly to Washington Heights and 12 other locations in Manhattan and the Bronx in New York City on October 6, 2011. The Milk from the Heart program delivers weekly to Washington Heights and 12 other locations in Manhattan and the Bronx in New York City on October 6, 2011.

The Milk from the Heart program delivers weekly to Washington Heights and 12 other locations in Manhattan and the Bronx in New York City on October 6, 2011. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Some have given reasons, no matter how stupid they may sound. Like Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, who said she saw no need for additional funding for hungry children “while childhood obesity has become an epidemic.”

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that the person who supported Florida Governor Ron DeSantis for president could sound so empty and evil in her thinking.

Other Republican Governors as TheWashington Post noted in his story about the Republican Party’s backlash to helping combat child hunger in America were even more blunt.

“I don’t believe in welfare,” Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen explained when asked why he turned down the money.

Pills eventually changed mind after Nebraska state Senator Jen Day, a Democrat, has introduced a bill to require participation and found a Republican ally, as well as a wave of support from rural voters.

She applied pressure, and luckily shame still works in some cases.

What I don’t understand is why such efforts have not been replicated for the remaining states: Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, and Wyoming.

I understand why the issue has not been nationalized. Much of mainstream news is run by aloof rich people who could care less about the poor, while stoking viewers’ fears about crime is better for business. But that means it’s up to Democrats to make it an issue.

I would prefer not to see Donald Trump become president again, but the responsibility for that lies with President Joe Biden and his Democratic Party. And right now they’re in a tough spot when it comes to how to talk about the economy.

Yes, we are all grateful that the Biden/Harris administration did not let the country suffer from the plague as much as other countries.

And yes, there are plenty of big economic signs that Biden has every right to be personally proud of, but “Bidenomics” is not a selling point for an audience still consumed by how expensive it is to live.

If I were Biden or the head of the Democratic Party, I would stop waiting for credit for a revived economy that will likely never come and take on Republicans on issues that some struggling voters might value.

It was a mistake not to use political capital to pressure Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to support the continued expansion of the child tax credit, which cut child poverty in half.

It would be a mistake once again to allow the Republicans – and their friend – who was so handy – to exercise their power to hurt America’s children.

They have boasted about their plans for a nationwide ban on the universal free lunch.

If Republicans could falsely label Democrats as “caregivers,” they would have to be branded as pro-child hunger.

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