WASHINGTON – Congressmen, clergy, and others gathered at the Capitol Hill Safeway Store in Southeast Washington, D.C., to kick off the annual “Fighting Poverty With Faith” program.
The feature initiative was the “Food Stamp Challenge,” in which participants agreed to live for one week on the average stamp food allotment, which is $31.50 a week, or $1.50 a meal.
Speakers at the event, held outside on a rainy Thursday morning, included clergy from religious charities as well as some Congressmen.
The major theme of the speeches was on the value of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program.
In an interview with The Christian Post, President and CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs Rabbi Steve Gutow, the first speaker at the event, said he believed that SNAP was crucial to poverty reduction.
In addition to SNAP, Gutow also believed that there should be “significant work” done on other government programs like Woman, Infants, and Children (WIC) and Medicaid.
“I think there are some more specific programs that we need to deal with in terms of providing food, providing distribution methodologies for the poor, housing for the poor,” said Gutow.
Gutow stated that while he considered corporations and businesses to be “understandably nervous” about the economy, they should still look toward doing more for the general population.
“I think [the private sector] can invest more than it does in terms of American workers.”
The Rev. Peg Chemberlin, president of the National Council of Churches of Christ and another speaker, told CP that SNAP and other government programs are of great importance.
“[SNAP] is a very central program. Medicaid is a central program. TEFAP is a very central program,” said Chemberlin, who expressed concern about possible barriers to access to said programs.
“For an elderly woman who doesn’t drive, to go to the food shop, get her food stamps, go to the grocery store, go to the TEFAP place. You know that’s a very hard way to feed oneself,” said Chemberlin.
“I think if there were some way to allow benefits to be accessed more easily like by the person we saw today, so she could go to one place and get her TEFAP product, get her food stamps, have her Medicaid processed, have her earned income tax benefits processed … Those are all big and important programs. They need to be supported, but they need to be able to be accessed.”
In addition to the JCPA and NCC, there are 50 other organizations endorsing the event including Catholic Charities, the Islamic Society of North America, and the African Methodist Episcopal Church.