U.S. Senator Chris Coons, a member of the Senate Budget Committee, told more than 250 anti-hunger advocates gathered for a conference Monday that he would continue to stand up for Delawareans who are struggling to make ends meet as Congress looks for ways to reduce the federal government's dangerous deficits.
"Even in times of tight budgets and program cuts, we have a moral obligation to put a circle of protection around the most vulnerable of our neighbors," Senator Coons said. "In 2013, in the richest country in the world, in a state that grows some of the healthiest produce and poultry in the country, it is unacceptable that thousands of Delawareans go to sleep at night not sure where their next meal will come from. Out of America's abundance, we can find the time and the effort and the energy to come together and to meet the needs of the hungry."
Senator Coons has supported a balanced approach to deficit reduction that does not rely exclusively on cuts to discretionary programs -- including anti-poverty and anti-hunger programs -- to find savings. Last month he voted on a budget that responsibly reduced our nation's deficit while making investments in America's long-term competitiveness and protecting the most vulnerable in our society.
"It is hard for me to accept that there are some in Congress who don't see this as a moral challenge for our country," Senator Coons said. "Teachers know, parents know -- all of us know -- that a child who begins their school day hungry doesn't focus on their lesson, doesn't absorb what their supposed to learn, is much more likely to be a problem in the classroom, and is much less likely to be able to grow, achieve, and to dream big."
In contrast, the budget passed by the House of Representatives cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by 34 percent over the next five years. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reported that, "SNAP cuts of the magnitude that the Ryan budget proposes would almost certainly lead to increases in hunger and poverty." The non-profit Bread for the World described the proposed cuts as "devastating," despite "unprecedented levels of need."
Monday's all-day conference, Ending Hunger! (Through Citizen Service), was organized by the Delaware Anti-Hunger Coalition and sponsored by the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services. Held at the Christiana Hilton in Newark, it focused on ways to increase access to and participation in children's nutrition programs, innovative strategies for providing more nutritious foods and recruiting and applying volunteer talent.
"A day focused on ending hunger is important in Delaware where we rank number three in the nation for highest percentage of residents who cannot afford food," Food Bank of Delaware President and CEO Patricia Beebe said. "From advocacy and policy efforts to school-based child nutrition and government nutrition programs, the day will feature information for all interested in playing an active role in ending hunger. The programs are available to end hunger in the First State; we now just need the will of the community."
The Delaware Anti-Hunger Coalition is comprised of representatives from the nonprofit, business, government, education, faith-based and agricultural sectors. The Coalition works to identify goals, objectives and measurements and make significant contributions towards alleviating, and in many cases eliminating, hunger in the state of Delaware.