Economic justice in the United States is an incredibly complex topic. It covers far more than the simple math of the cost of food and shelter compared to the average wage. Economic justice must be rooted in the ability to meet not only immediate needs, but future needs as well.
Feeding America, a network of 200 food banks across the U.S., recently released a report highlighting the prevalence of food insecurity in U.S. households, particularly households with children. (What is food insecurity? Read an introduction here.)
According to the report 21.3 percent of households with children are food insecure, compared with 14.7 percent of all households. As unemployment has increased during the recent recession the level of poverty has increased as well. The U.S. Census Bureau estimated poverty in 2010 at 15.1 percent of the population.
Providing food for the hungry is not only about the need it meets today, but also the possibility it opens for tomorrow.
Food insecurity not only inhibits households from having enough food, but decreases their chances of being able to be successful in work and school. Hunger combines with interrelated issues such as unemployment and lack of health insurance to create a larger structure of economic injustice from which there is no simple escape.
The multiple layers of difficulty that affect people struggling to meet basic needs ensures that they will have a difficult time saving enough for the future and will therefore struggle when they reach retirement age as well.
In 2011, one in four people participated in a Federal Nutrition program—primarily SNAP (formerly food stamps), WIC (Women, Infants, and Children), or the School Lunch Program. For millions of children, this means they will have enough to eat which allows them to focus in school, develop healthy minds, and go on to live full lives.
Direct services like SNAP which provide immediate needs, allow households that are currently struggling with insecurity some support so that they can take the steps needed to build a better future. Providing food for the hungry is not only about the need it meets today, but also the possibility it opens for tomorrow.
It has been suggested by some members of Congress that feeding the hungry is not the role of the government but instead the role of charities and churches. As Christians we are called to feed the hungry (Matthew 25:35) and leave the gleanings of the field for the poor and the strangers (Leviticus 23:22). But, as citizens of a representational democracy, one of the ways that we act together is by paying taxes that are to be used for our common interests. This is one of the reasons that the MCC Washington Office opposes taxes being spent on the military and supports public funds used for programs like SNAP.
As budget debates rage in Washington it is important for Christians to hold our representatives accountable. Visit the MCC Washington Office U.S. economic justice website and sign up for action alerts to find opportunities to learn more and get involved.
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