Over the past seven days we have been privileged to take part in some prominent events that highlight the needs of hungry children.
Leaders from the faith community, charitable organizations and community groups have joined us in calling on state leaders to fight childhood hunger by restoring State Food Assistance.
Last Tuesday, we released a community letter asking legislators to “restore the integrity of our food security system” by fairly funding the program, which was cut in half last summer. The cut took food off the tables of nearly 14,000 children.
For nearly 15 years, State Food Assistance has provided a smart solution to the problem of childhood hunger. It’s a food stamp look-alike program set up to provide continued food assistance to documented immigrants when Congress, in 1996, terminated their eligibility for federal food stamps. Former Governor Gary Locke and a bipartisan Legislature built the program on the principle that no child deserves to grow up hungry.
Our Legislature led the country in 1997 in establishing the program, operating it cheaply through an administrative partnership with the federal government. But last year’s cut put Washington on a cruel detour from our legacy of smart, effective, caring solutions.
That’s why 62 community-based organizations signed the community letter. And why State Food Assistance was on the agenda of the spiritual leaders lobbying Wednesday in Olympia. And also why the leaders of non-profit food banks and other charities asked legislators to restore the program last Friday at Hunger Action Day.
Starting last Tuesday at sundown, a bipartisan group of eight legislators participated in a one-day fast initiated by a steadfast group of Vancouver area advocates.
Fasting is an inspiring sign of these legislators’ personal commitment to kids. One thing that all 149 legislators can do, however, is to repair our child nutrition network by restoring State Food Assistance.
Legislators who choose that course of action will need not just a steadfast commitment to fighting hunger, but an integrated view of our Constitutional obligation to our kids. The ties between hunger, poor health and learning are well understood. We can’t expect excellence in school when the pantry shelves at home lie empty.