Despite Numerous Anti-Hunger Organizations, Many Go Hungry

'Food Insecurity' Cannot Be Solved by Charity Alone

Not Enough: Hungry New Yorkers gather for a meal in a soup kitchen, but countless Americans still go hungry every night.
Getty Images
Not Enough: Hungry New Yorkers gather for a meal in a soup kitchen, but countless Americans still go hungry every night.

By Leonard Fein

Published February 16, 2013, issue of February 22, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Let us speak of SNAP.

“SNAP?,” you ask. “What is SNAP?”

SNAP is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly know and still best recognized as the food stamp program. And now it is in danger.

Here’s the story: SNAP has benefited enormously from the 2009 Recovery Act, which temporarily boosted SNAP benefits. But come November, the boost will end and benefits will be cut for every SNAP household.

What does that actually mean? According to the best projections (from the Congressional Budget Office), the cut will amount to $300 a year for a family of four.

That doesn’t sound like very much — but it works out to a benefit package of about $1.30 per person per meal, an amount that nutrition experts deem inadequate to meet a families’ basic food needs. That is the draconian level to which SNAP was reduced by Congress in 2010. SNAP beneficiaries include 22 million children (of whom 10 million live in what is termed “deep poverty,” with family incomes below half the poverty line) and more than nine million people who are elderly or have a serious disability.

Yes, there are many anti-hunger agencies, charitable organizations such as Feeding America, the nation’s largest anti-hunger organization which last years had a budget of $678 million and, of course, Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger. But the dimension of the hunger problem far exceeds the capacity of charitable organization to respond adequately. So, for example, if all Feeding America’s $678 million program budget were used to provide meals for people in need, that would feed each of the 50 million Americans struggling with hunger — or, as is these days the preferred term, “food insecurity” — for a total of, gulp, three days.

We get a more painful sense of the dimensions of the problem if we examine the extraordinary commitment of $2 billion by Walmart to the funding of anti-hunger programs. But the awesome truth is that even if Walmart were to assign all its net profits (roughly $15 billion in 2011) to the battle against hunger, that would cover less than 20% of the $78 billion government dollars allocated to SNAP in 2011.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.