Yesterday morning, I visited a local grocery store as part of Fighting Poverty with Faith, an interfaith campaign co-sponsored by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Catholic Charities USA, and the National Council of Churches.
While I was there, I had the chance to speak about the Obama Administration’s commitment to fighting hunger through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. For many of the 45 million Americans who rely on SNAP each year, these benefits are an economic lifeline. They can be the difference between going hungry, and putting food on the table.
President Obama knows that many Americans were struggling to afford food before the economic crisis of 2008, and that the recession only made things worse. He believes that our government must follow what he has called, “a common creed.” I am my brother’s keeper. I am my sister’s keeper.
That is why, when President Obama took office, he enhanced and expanded the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The investments we made kept 3.9 million Americans, including 1.7 million children, above the poverty line in 2010. They prevented child hunger from rising, even as poverty and unemployment levels increased in the wake of the economic crisis.
These investments also benefited our economy as a whole. In fact, every five dollars in new SNAP generates up to nine dollars in increased economic activity, for stores, warehouses, truck drivers, and farms.
Of course, expanding SNAP benefits is just one of many ways the Obama Administration has supported low-income Americans. Two weeks ago, the White House released a report entitled “Creating Pathways to Opportunity,” which goes into these initiatives in greater detail.
As President Obama seeks to protect our most vulnerable citizens, he is proud to work with religious leaders from all faiths. A few months ago, I joined the President for a meeting with the Circle of Protection, a national religious coalition committed to speaking up for “the least of these.” Together, we held hands and prayed for the well-being of our most vulnerable neighbors, and for the wisdom to remember our obligations toward one another.
This will not be easy. Even now, Congress has proposed making drastic cuts to the SNAP program, and to other programs which benefit our economy while helping Americans make ends meet. But we believe that if we work together with citizens and leaders of every faith, we can do the right thing, fight poverty, and make sure our economy reflects our highest American ideals.