AMERICA'S CULINARY LEADERS SAY, "PROTECT SNAP"
Jul. 11, 2012
Source: Share Our Strength/No Kid Hungry news release
More than 400 of America's culinary leaders today asked Congress to protect funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps).
Chefs and restaurateurs from across the nation like Hugh Acheson, Daniel Boulud, Sean Brock, Floyd Cardoz, Jennifer Carroll, Tom Colicchio, Alexandra Guarnaschelli, Stephanie Izard, Food Network President Brooke Johnson, Sandra Lee, Danny Meyer, Mary Sue Milliken, Michael Mina, Marc Murphy, Pat & Gina Neely, Charlie Palmer, Rachael Ray, Marcus Samuelsson, and Bryan Voltaggio, to name only a few, joined the national anti-hunger nonprofit Share Our Strength in urging lawmakers to protect funding for this nutrition program so critical to feeding America's children.
SNAP is the first line of defense in the fight against childhood hunger. Today, nearly half of the 46 million Americans relying on SNAP (food stamps) are children.
"I want to live in a country where every kid has the same chance to grow and learn and thrive," said Mary Sue Milliken, Co-Chef/Owner Border Grill Restaurants and Truck in Los Angeles, CA.
Bryan Voltaggio, chef and owner of VOLT in Frederick, MD, agrees, "I know the challenges of raising a family and I cannot fathom how those challenges would be compounded if I weren't able to put enough food on the table."
This week the House Agriculture Committee is debating a proposed $16.5 billion in cuts to SNAP. If Congress cuts funding for this poverty-relieving program, it would affect millions of children and families, leaving them at risk for long-term hunger, health and education problems. It would also lead to 280,000 kids from low-income families losing access to free school meals in cases when eligibility is tied to their receipt of SNAP benefits.
"Right now, a fifth of our youngest generation isn't getting the nutritious food they need on a regular basis," said Share Our Strength Founder and CEO Billy Shore. "Physicians have rightly described SNAP as one of our most effective vaccines. Without the food and nutrition they need to grow and thrive, vulnerable children face increased health, education, and employment challenges. We can't have a stronger America with weaker kids."
Marc Murphy, Food Network star and owner of Benchmarc Restaurants in New York, NY, asserted, "I'm a father and I know how important nutrition is for kids to have the energy they need to grow and learn. Knowing the number of children in our backyards who aren't getting the nutrients they need, it just became a priority for me, and something that I can't ignore."
Share Our Strength has deep roots in the culinary community. Chefs have been outspoken advocates for ending childhood hunger and have raised millions of dollars to connect kids with the food they need to grow and thrive. All across the U.S., chefs volunteer their time to teach low-income families how to shop for and cook healthy, affordable meals as part of Share Our Strength's Cooking Matters. The program reached more than 18,000 families alone last year.
The text of the letter follows.
Dear Members of Congress:
As members of the culinary community dedicated to ending childhood hunger in the United States, we urge you to protect the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as you continue work on the Farm Bill this year. This program is a critical lifeline for families struggling to make ends meet, helping them to put nutritious food on the table on a limited budget, and funding cuts would place an undue burden on parents and their children.
Ending childhood hunger in this country is a responsibility shared by the public and private sector. The culinary community has been a longtime ally in working to end childhood hunger: we have raised significant resources and have been outspoken advocates for the importance of connecting kids with the food they need to grow and thrive. However, without a sustained commitment from the federal government, we cannot win this battle.
One in five children in America is at risk of hunger. Over 46 million Americans rely on SNAP benefits to buy the food they need to feed their families, and three-quarters of SNAP households include a child, elderly person, or disabled person. Ensuring our children have enough to eat must be a priority for our nation. Children are healthier and do better in school when they get the food they need, ensuring their bright future. Additionally, childhood hunger has an enormous impact on our economy - up to $28 billion by some estimates.
As chefs, restaurant owners, and others in the community, we have dedicated our professional and personal lives to providing high quality food to our communities. Ensuring all Americans have access to nutritious food, and education about how to prepare healthy meals is a key component in the fight to end childhood hunger in America. Programs like SNAP Nutrition Education provide this for millions of low-income families, teaching parents how to maximize their SNAP benefits to purchase and prepare healthy foods, and teaching kids to make healthy choices. All across the U.S., chefs and others in the culinary community volunteer their time to teach cooking classes, reaching more than 18,000 families in Share Our Strength's Cooking Matters program alone last year. Many of these classes were funded through SNAP Nutrition Education.
While we recognize the challenges of our current fiscal environment, cutting SNAP benefits is wrong for American families and wrong for our economy. SNAP provides crucial economic stimulus activity for communities across the country. The U.S. Department of Agriculture found that for every $5 SNAP dollar spent, $9 is generated in community spending. As employers of thousands of individuals, we see the economic benefits provided by SNAP in communities across the country each day.
We hope you will take the views of your constituents into consideration when voting on this legislation. SNAP is a critical lifeline for the neediest among us and we ask you support funding for this program.