You may not know them personally, but every night tens of millions of Americans go to sleep hungry. Despite being one of the richest countries in the world, 1 in 7 Americans – 48 million people – struggle to get the food they need.
As we all know, food costs money. But most Americans haven't seen a decent raise in nearly a decade. Even though the U.S. has rebounded in terms of jobs created since the Great Recession in 2008, wages have barely moved. In today's bargain basement economy, the median wages across 80 American cities actually declined, according to a recent Brookings Institute report.
Young people and people of color are being hit especially hard. In some places, despite relatively low unemployment rates, African Americans have seen their paychecks decline by 20%. The Center for American Progress has uncovered that older millennial adults make about the same income today as 30-year-olds did in 1985.
Last year, the Social Security Administration announced that there would be no cost-of-living increase in 2016 – putting additional stress on older Americans, not to mention the 3.2 million children who directly receive Social Security benefits, mostly as the result of a parent passing away.
Further eating away at the paychecks of working people is the cost of healthcare. In 2014, the per capita cost of health care services – everything from regular checkups, to emergency room visits, to major surgeries – was $9,523. That's a sizable chunk of change when it comes to median income of Americans (about $53,000 in 2014). Furthermore, that amount could buy 5,000 loaves of bread or more than 2,200 jars of peanut butter.
In addition to these grim statistics, up to 40% of the food produced in America never makes it to people’s plates and goes to waste.
The bottom line is that Americans are hungry.
Even though lawmakers are well-aware of these facts, many are choosing to reinstate the three month limit of federally funded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, in their states across the country.
That means that if you've been out of work for three months and still can't find a job, you'll no longer have help putting dinner on the table. For a household of one, SNAP benefits were about $143 a month in 2015 – just barely enough to cover most monthly grocery bills. But, these aren't just folks who can't find a job: around 44% of SNAP recipients are children under the age of 18.
Unlike during the Great Depression in the 1930s, lawmakers have ignored the hunger pangs of Americans and instead focused their attention on cutting government services and agency budgets. Although elected officials seem to be missing in action, there's another group of public servants who are stepping up to fill the dinner plate.
Feds Feed Families
The people who have suffered the brunt of austerity politics, sequestration, furloughs and government shutdowns – public servants – came together in 2009 under the United We Serve program and launched the Feds Feed Families campaign.
They committed to helping local food banks and pantries stock up during summer months when they traditionally see a decrease in donations and an increase in need. Through their efforts they've shown that no one should have to choose between food, rent, and utilities.
Many AFGE locals are fully participating in the campaign. The Social Security Administration and AFGE SSA Council 220, for example, are partners in the campaign and encourage union members to give to a canned food drive.
“AFGE is proud that we are partners with federal agencies in the campaign to encourage employees to donate food to those in need,” said AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. “It doesn’t make any sense that millions of Americans go hungry when there is so much food wasted every year.”
Federal employees across the country donated nearly 18 million pounds of food to their local food banks and pantries in 2015. In Washington, D.C. alone, federal employees’ donations were distributed to 500 partner organizations.
The campaign runs between June 1 and Aug. 31, 2016.
If you haven’t make a donation or are new to the campaign, here’s how you can help:
- Bring canned food, toiletries, and non-perishable items to work with you and place them into a designated collection box.
- If you want to donate fresh fruits and vegetables, talk to your office coordinator to see if your donation can be accepted.
AFGE members' public service doesn't end when they clock out of at the end of their day. They actively work to better their communities and provide for those in need – whether it’s a food drive to help furloughed employees at Ft. Bragg, water distribution for Flint residents, or a tie tying lesson at local high schools.
To learn more about the members of AFGE, visit www.afge.org to find out how we're working to strengthen create a better nation.
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