CCAR Resolution on Hunger in America
May 19, 2016
Providing for the hungry is described by our sages as a sacred task. “When you are asked in the world to come, ‘What was your work?’ and you answer, ‘I fed the hungry,’ you will be told, ‘This is the gate of Adonai, enter into it, you who have fed the hungry.’”
In 1975, the Central Conference of American Rabbis resolved that the issue of hunger be given high priority among synagogues and Jewish communal institutions. A 1982 resolution decried budget cuts to essential federal nutrition assistance programs, and a 1983 resolution supported the creation of synagogue food banks and distribution centers. These were followed by a 1989 resolution supporting the work of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, which launched vital efforts by synagogues nationwide to work together to end hunger. In the following decades, the CCAR continued to speak out about the importance of economic justice and the need to ensure that the United States government maintains its responsibility to ensure an adequate, federally-guaranteed safety net to protect our nation’s most vulnerable populations.
Today, hunger in America not only persists, it has reached staggering rates, affecting more than 48 million people. Special populations such as children, seniors, and active-duty military families and veterans face particular challenges regarding food insecurity.
More than 15 million children struggle with hunger, which has devastating effects, impacting their physical development and making it nearly impossible to learn. 9.6 million seniors struggle with food insecurity, and yet 3 out of 5 seniors who are eligible for SNAP benefits do not participate, which means that 5.2 million seniors miss out on receiving the nutrition benefits they so desperately need. And across the country, both current members of our armed forces and veterans regularly turn to food pantries and distribution programs, sometimes in uniform, looking for help to feed themselves and their families.
The scale of the problem of hunger in the United States is massive. There are a myriad of complex contributing factors, and the response necessary to address hunger reveals that charity alone is not the answer. Charitable organizations were not conceived to feed entire communities and do not have the capacity to feed the significant and persistent number of people who need help. Only the government has the capacity to address an issue with this magnitude and work toward a solution to ending hunger.
The longstanding federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a highly effective, efficient, and responsive program that addresses the food insecurity challenges of millions of Americans, including special populations such as children, seniors, military and veterans’ families, and disabled individuals. SNAP must be protected from harmful policy proposals – such as transforming the program from a guaranteed entitlement program, which effectively responds to changes in need, into a block grant that would cap funding and limit participation. Also, approximately 500,000 childless adults risk losing SNAP benefits in 2016, due to a provision of the Welfare and Medicaid Reform Act of 1996.
SNAP needs targeted program improvements to better help those who are struggling to get back on their feet and support nutritious food purchases for a healthy diet throughout the month. SNAP benefits would be improved if calculated based on the cost of the USDA low-cost food plan in order to prevent diminished food budgets at the end of the month that have serious health consequences. SNAP would also be improved by fully funding SNAP Employment and Training programs and by easing the harsh time limits on benefit access for certain jobless adults willing to work.
Alongside SNAP, the US Department of Agriculture that provides meals to needy children in school is central to combatting hunger in this country. However, in July, 2014, only 16.2 children received Summer Nutrition for every 100 low-income students who received lunch in the 2013-2014 school year. That is, only one child in six children who needed summer meals received them.
According to experts at the US Department of Agriculture, which administers most federal nutrition programs, and MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, these changes and improvements would greatly move us forward in our efforts to end hunger in America.
Therefore Be It Resolved, that the Central Conference of American Rabbis:
 Midrash Psalms 118:17.
 “Hunger,” CCAR Resolution, 1975.
 “Budget and Social Welfare,” CCAR Resolution, 1982.
 “On Hunger and Food Banks,” CCAR Resolution, 1983.
 “Mazon,” CCAR Resolution, 1989.
 “Statement on Our Economic Commitment to America’s Poor,” CCAR Resolution, 1996.
 USDA Household Food Insecurity in the United States in 2014; released September 2015.
 SNAP is the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. See line 45 and following.
 USDA Household Food Insecurity in the United States in 2014; released September 2015, and The State of Senior Hunger in America 2013: An Annual Report by National Foundation to End Senior Hunger, released April 23, 2015, www.nfesh.org/research
 “More Than 500,000 Adults Will Lose SNAP Benefits in 2016 as Waivers Expire”, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Released March 2016. http://www.cbpp.org/research/food-assistance/more-than-500000-adults-will-lose-snap-benefits-in-2016-as-waivers-expire#_ftn5.
 “Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation: Summer Nutrition Status Report.”Food Research & Action Center, June, 2015. http://frac.org/pdf/2015_summer_nutrition_report.pdf