Resolution on the Hunger Crisis in America

Posted on: Tuesday March 24, 2020

Whereas we are commanded to, “not harden your heart and shut your hand against your needy kinsman. Rather you must open your hand…” (Devarim 15:7-8), and

“For there will never cease to be needy ones in your land, which is why I command you: open your hand to the poor and needy kinsman in your land.”(Devarim 15:11), and “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap all the way to the edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. You shall not pick your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger. (Vayikra 19:9-10) 

Whereas: More than 40 million American men, women, and children struggle to put food on the table on a regular basis, and

Whereas: While charitable organizations play a vital role in addressing hunger, the overwhelming majority of food assistance in this country has historically come from—and must continue to come from—federal programs, and 

Whereas the RA is a founding partner of Mazon, and

Whereas the SNAP program is now threatened by three administrative rule changes as follows:

  1. Enforcing restrictive work requirements, scheduled to take effect April 1, 2020, which limit state waivers for SNAP, ignoring the reality of millions of Americans who work inconsistent hours, lack access to transportation, live in areas where the economy has been slow to recover, or aren’t able to access employment and training programs. These restrictive work requirements also apply to our veterans who are often at high risk physically and psychologically, have higher unemployment rates and may require more than three months to secure employment;
  2. Eliminating categorical eligibility which would effectively cut or further burden 3.1 million people suffering from food insecurity by limiting states to align SNAP’s eligibility limits with other government assistance programs like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).
  3. Cutting $4.5 billion dollars from the SNAP program over 5 years resulting in an estimated 20% of SNAP households seeing their benefits cut by $30 each month, which will lead to more food insecurity and hunger; and

Whereas: The above administrative rule changes will have a particularly heavy impact on households with seniors and people with disabilities;

Whereas children in households that receive SNAP are automatically eligible for free school meals, over 500,000 children would lose access to free school meals;

Whereas: The charitable food sector is in no way equipped to respond to the scope of food insecurity in America and the impact of these changes will overwhelm the Jewish and non-Jewish social services which are already overburdened;

Whereas the Rabbinical Assembly has passed numerous resolutions (1999, 2012 and 2012, 2014, 2019) repeatedly calling our members to advocate, strengthen, and care for the poor and vulnerable; and

Therefore, be it resolved that the Rabbinical Assembly once again strongly denounce these changes which will weaken nutritional support for those in need and, 

Be it further resolved: that we ask each of our members to create opportunities to teach about Jewish responses toward food insecurity such as a dedicated Shabbat, school lesson, Hillel program, and

Be it further resolved that: the Rabbinical Assembly encourage each of our members to use their voices to amplify the Jewish values of feeding the hungry and how the above policies will exacerbate food insecurity and hunger in America; this could accomplished by writing “letters to the editor” or editorials in local newspapers, lobbying local lawmakers, or circulating petitions, or other such means,

Be it further resolved that the Rabbinical Assembly provide a template that can be used for such letters and editorials, and

Be it further resolved that we encourage our members to support and partner with the efforts of Mazon in advocating on a national and local level on the issue of food insecurity, and

Finally, be it further resolved for our members to run multiple food drive campaigns, to support our local Jewish social service organizations, soup kitchens,food pantries and any organization or group doing this vital work.