Deficit reduction is an important national priority, vital to our long-term economic opportunity and security. But just because it's important doesn't mean that it can be undertaken without regard to our national values.
Unfortunately, the House of Representatives left values on the sideline this week when it moved forward with a shocking proposal to cut food assistance for our nation's hungry by over $33 billion. That it was done in the name of deficit reduction does not excuse the fact that cuts to anti-hunger programs at a time when need has never been greater are both reckless and short-sighted.
Taking care of our neighbors is an American value, and feeding our neighbors is a shared responsibility. Every day the Maryland Food Bank sees this partnership reflected in the generous support of our volunteers and donors — including local and state governments — and we are grateful that this value is reflected in Washington through important anti-hunger programs like SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps.
Some like to point to the great work that the Maryland Food Bank and local pantries and shelters are doing to suggest that hunger is better solved by charity at the community level. Speaking from the front lines, charity cannot do it alone. Hunger is a national problem, and it is needs a national solution, and that starts with a strong federal commitment to programs like SNAP.
Protecting the poor is not a partisan issue, and balancing the budget does not have to be either. Our nation has a long, bipartisan commitment to protecting low-income safety net programs like SNAP in past deficit reduction agreements. Congress should put the nation's interests first and meet in the middle to craft policies that spur economic recovery, ensure broad and sustainable opportunity, and protect families when opportunity remains out of reach, including making sure that SNAP and food pantries are here to put food on the table until struggling Americans are back on their feet.
Deborah Flateman, Baltimore
The writer is CEO of the Maryland Food Bank.