Chef Eric Stein, MS RD CCE

Wellness Chef | Registered Dietitian
Certified Culinary Educator

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While I was teaching in Denver, I had the good fortune to serve on the Board of Advisors for Operation Frontline Colorado, a non-profit nutrition education program serving families struggling with poverty.

While they are now known as Cooking Matters, they still provide the same great programs empowering families with the skills, knowledge, and confidence to prepare meals that are healthy and affordable.

Cooking Matters is just one of the great programs under the umbrella of Share Our Strength, a national non-profit whose mission is ending childhood hunger in America. I follow Share Our Strength on twitter @NoKidHungry and they commented on a blog by Jessica Cohen @FoundTheMarbles. Jessica wrote a great article encouraging others to get involved in ending childhood hunger, and she agreed to let me share it with you.

Food is Not a Privilege
Jessica Cohen
www.FoundTheMarbles.com

Over 192,000 people have taken the pledge. A year ago I took the pledge. Have you? Have you pledged to add your voice to the national movement of people committed to ending childhood hunger in America?

No child in America should go hungry. Food should be a right, not a privilege. One in five children in this country does not have enough to eat and soon that number could get even larger.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (known as SNAP) is formerly the food stamp program. Contrary to the old myths about people on food stamps, over 40% of SNAP recipients live in a household with employed earnings, and only 10% or so receive welfare. Roughly half of the 46 million people receiving assistance through SNAP are children. These are working families with children who are just trying to make ends meet.

In fact, according to recent data, only two thirds of those who are eligible for SNAP actually participate in the program. Whether they are too proud to use food stamps or simple don't know about the food stamp program is unknown.

Members of Congress are currently working to reauthorize the Farm Bill, and if in doing so they cut funding for SNAP it will adversely affect millions of children, potentially leaving them without food stamp benefits and even more vulnerable to hunger. Earlier this year, the House budget resolution approved huge proposed cuts to SNAP of nearly 20 percent and now the bill is in being worked on in Congress. The reason cited for the cuts is that SNAP has grown in recent years to the point that too many people are benefiting from it. How ridiculous is that? Is the theory that if too many people can eat our government is helping too much?

Benefiting? That makes it sound so glamorous. SNAP recipients are not benefiting from it. They are eating because of it. And they are barely eating at that. The average SNAP participant gets a monthly benefit of just $134, which equals less than $1.50 per meal.

Yes, SNAP has grown significantly in recent years. That is absolutely true. So has the number of people who are suffering economically. Isn't that the reason programs like SNAP were introduced in the first place?

So let's get back to the Farm Bill. While the Farm Bill is generally associated with the provision of agricultural subsidies, conservation programs and new farming policies, the legislation authorizing SNAP happens to be included in the Farm Bill, and has been a part of the Farm Bill for many years. Well, it is more than just included in the Farm Bill. The nutrition title, which includes SNAP, is the largest title in the Farm Bill.

The Agricultural Committee's proposed 2012 Farm Bill proposed a cut of $4 billion from SNAP. They proposed eliminating automatic enrollment for people who qualify for energy benefits. (Because heaven forbid the government could be generous enough to help them with both food and energy.) So now our lawmakers will get to decide which parts of the bill to cut, and this is where we can help.

Let's be a voice for those in need.

No child in America should go hungry.

Here's how you can help:

Take The Pledge

Tell Congress: Protect Federal Nutrition Programs

Recruit your friends to take action too on your Facebook and Twitter:

Facebook: Join me in urging Congress to protect our nation's most vulnerable kids. Find out how at nokidhungry.org/farmbill

Twitter: Urge Congress to #ProtectSNAP and make @NoKidHungry.
Take action at nokidhungry.org/farmbill

Send a letter to the editor of your local newspaper to raise awareness of this important issue.

If you are one of the millions of Americans who has used SNAP or food stamp benefits, please Share Your Story.

Culinary and nutrition experts can volunteer to teach a Cooking Matters course and help participants learn how to select nutritious and low-cost ingredients and prepare them in ways that provide the best nourishment possible to their families.

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