Feeding Texas congratulates the projected winners of last Tuesday’s election across our state and nation.
We celebrate the conclusion of an election season challenged by a global pandemic, an atypical voting process, and profound differences of opinion among voters. We celebrate Texas voters, especially the Texans served by the network of food banks, who turned out in record numbers to cast their ballots. Finally, we celebrate our local election officials, who presided over a fair and accessible election during a very challenging time.
We urge the winners of this election, our new and returning leaders, to commit to taking brave action in this historic moment, in which:
- 31% of Texans have been estimated as food insecure;
- hunger has grown disproportionately among Texas communities of color, families with children, and rural communities;
- public and private efforts to mitigate hunger have been stretched to their breaking points; and
- state and federal investment in nutrition programs is waning just as COVID-19 is regaining strength.
Specifically, we urge the new Biden administration to focus their initial efforts on:
- Reversing recent USDA rule changes that increase hunger by unfairly restricting and discouraging SNAP access for working families and eligible immigrants;
- Making political appointments at USDA, including a new Secretary of Agriculture, that demonstrate strong support for the federal nutrition programs (which comprise 76% of USDA’s budget) and the communities they serve;
- Supporting Congress’ efforts to strengthen existing nutrition programs and extend program flexibilities until the end of the pandemic; and
- Faithfully pursuing the ambitious housing and tax credit plans laid out by their campaign, which would do much to prevent hunger in the poorest communities.
We urge our new Congress to immediately:
- Strengthen SNAP as a vehicle to simultaneously address hunger, poor health and economic recovery, including a temporary boost to SNAP benefits of 15%;
- Increase commodities funding to replenish food banks’ supplies and help them keep pace with the demand for food assistance;
- Support the creation of a basic needs allowance for active-duty military members to prevent food insecurity among our nation’s military families; and
- Support the Biden administration’s calls for strengthened housing and tax credit policy to reduce poverty.
Finally, we urge our Texas state legislators to:
- Protect and strengthen Texans’ access to federal nutrition programs in their hour of need. In particular, we must simplify access to SNAP for Texas seniors, increase employment and training opportunities for SNAP recipients, and remove barriers to the program for college students.
- Reverse cuts to food bank funding proposed by the Texas Department of Agriculture; and
- Support policies that promote increased earnings and an equitable response to the pandemic in communities of color and lower income.
As always, our nation’s elections represent an inflection point around which we can recommit to our shared values and claim new energy to address our biggest challenges.
We believe Texas can provide everyone a seat at the dinner table. We can achieve this by strengthening and protecting the solutions we have in hand, while addressing the root problems of poverty, poor health and social (especially racial) inequity that continue to produce hunger in our land of plenty.
Editor’s Note: The above guest column was penned by Celia Cole, CEO of Feeding Texas. The column appears in The Rio Grande Guardian with the permission of the author. Cole can be reached at [email protected].
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