This week the House will debate a GOP proposal to cut $101 million from food assistance for low-income seniors and local food banks. The bill slashes $38 million (a 22 percent cut) from the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, or CSFP, which provides nutritious food packages to more than 600,000 low-income families every month (96 percent of whom are seniors). The bill also cuts $63 million from The Emergency Food Assistance Program, or TEFAP, which provides our nation’s emergency food bank network with food commodities and storage and distribution support. These cuts come at a time when food prices are rising and food banks are already struggling to serve their existing caseload.
Conservatives claim these cuts on the backs of our nation’s most vulnerable families are necessary to bring our fiscal house in order. But here’s the rub: One day’s worth of Bush tax cuts for millionaires would more than offset these cuts to seniors and food banks. Here’s the math:
What’s more, conservatives often claim that private charities will simply pick up the slack. Yet this bill cuts support to the very private charities that conservatives claim will step up to fill the gap. TEFAP funds supply about 25 percent of the food provided by local food banks, soup kitchens, churches, synagogues, mosques, and other emergency feeding institutions.
Cuts to the program would be particularly devastating as food banks face a projected 50 percent decline in USDA bonus commodities and grapple with a trend of falling charitable donations. Similarly, the CSFP is generally distributed through local public and nonprofit community organizations like food pantries and hospitals.
In short, these cuts will inflict enormous suffering on some of our nation’s most vulnerable populations while undermining the ability of private charities to meet rising need. And yet today our Treasury will lose more money in tax cuts for millionaires than it would take to avert these cuts.
Melissa Boteach is the Manager for Half in Ten at American Progress.