Thanksgiving is an opportunity to celebrate and be grateful for all we have. Feeding the hungry and caring for the poor are central tenets of the Methodist faith and so many others. The holiday season reminds us of our obligation to our brothers and sisters to guarantee that those among us who are struggling to make ends meet can feed their families.
Wells United Methodist Church Food Pantry as well as so many others are doing crucial work to provide assistance to our neighbors and friends who are hungry. Each Tuesday a diverse group of Wells UMC volunteers attempt to do our very best to help others in need. So many organizations of faith embody the values of caring for poor, the marginalized, and the voiceless. The Wells UMC food pantry hopes to be doing just that. On most Tuesdays, the pantry will serve on average 80 brothers and sisters in need. This Tuesday, two days before Thanksgiving, the pantry served nearly 150 people who were able to bring extra food home to their families. We are grateful to have helped so many but unfortunately, that work is never done, and it is never more important than during the holiday season.
However, food pantries can’t do this work alone. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, plays a critical role in helping 1 in 6 Mississippians put food on the table year-round, including families with children, seniors, veterans, and people with disabilities (CBPP, 2017). According to Feeding America, SNAP provides 12 meals for every 1 meal that Feeding America’s network of food bank provides.
This holiday season, our elected leaders can help members of our community for years to come, far beyond these winter months, by protecting SNAP. Congress is currently working to finalize a farm bill, landmark legislation that is passed every five years and funds food assistance and other priorities. With many still struggling to get by, it’s crucial that lawmakers pass a farm bill that protects SNAP.
SNAP doesn’t just help fulfill our societal obligation to feed the hungry – it is also one of the best anti-poverty programs we have. In Mississippi alone, SNAP keeps 136,000 of our community members out of poverty, including 64,000 children (CBPP, 2017). For the good of our state, we need Congress to pass a final farm bill that supports and strengthens SNAP.
This Thanksgiving, we have the chance to ensure that the generosity and compassion we all demonstrate has a long-term impact. We hope that all Mississippians of faith and conscience will join us in urging leaders in Congress to pass a farm bill that protects and strengthens SNAP and reject any efforts to cut or make harmful changes to this crucial assistance for our friends and neighbors. The moral principles of our faith demand it.
Charles Araujo is the Volunteer Food Pantry Coordinator for Wells UMC.
Kathryn Rehner is a Policy Associate with the Mississippi Center for Justice.