Guest columnist Kristin Warzocha is president and CEO for the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, Northeast Ohio’s largest hunger relief organization. The Food Bank relies on community support to fulfill its mission of ensuring that everyone in our communities has the nutritious food they need every day.
While most people are looking forward to the holidays, thousands of families are struggling to put food on the table. Add the pressure to provide a big, traditional holiday meal and the added financial expense of gifts, winter heating bills and clothes, and the stress can be overwhelming. Far too many families and children can and do go hungry.
That is not acceptable.
Cleveland ranks highest in child poverty among the largest U.S. cities. In fact, according to newly released census data, more than half of children living in Cleveland are in families struggling with poverty.
At the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, we serve many of these children and their families through our network of more than 1,000 partner programs. In 2019, the Food Bank provided nutritious food to 350,000 people in our six-county service area and — thanks to partnerships with organizations such as the Boys and Girls Clubs of Cleveland — we are able to ensure that tens of thousands of Cleveland children have a meal waiting for them after school, on the weekends and during the summer months.
Although we partner with a robust network of programmatic partners, providing 47 million pounds of food last year, we are not the largest provider of nutrition assistance for children in Northeast Ohio. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps, is the nation’s first line of defense against hunger, providing assistance to nearly 82,000 children in Cuyahoga County on average in 2019.
Yet, for how modest SNAP benefits are, the Trump administration has proposed three changes this year alone that will cut benefits for Ohio families needing this help. These proposals center around changing the way SNAP is administered by states, hurting hungry families and children in the process.
These changes are complicated, but the bottom line is that they will negatively impact families in our community receiving SNAP. Early estimates indicate that, if these rule changes go into effect, more than 100,000 Ohioans will lose their SNAP benefits and up to 41 percent of Ohio families will see their benefits decrease by about $45 per month.
At the Food Bank, our mission is simple: we work to ensure that everyone in our community has the nutritious food they need every day. For every one meal provided by food banks, SNAP provides nine meals. And right now, the largest child nutrition program in the country is facing cuts that could take food off the tables of hungry kids.
In a city where more than half of our children live in poverty, we need to push for strengthening programs that keep our children strong and healthy, not cut them.
Please consider supporting hunger relief efforts by advocating, donating or volunteering. Because no child should go hungry, you can make a difference for hungry families and children in our community.
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 U.S. Census Bureau, 2018 American Community Survey: 1-Year Estimates
 U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service, FY2019 Average Monthly Benefit Per Person, analysis pulled from: National Monthly Annual Data and Latest Available Month August 2019, https://fns-prod.azureedge.net/sites/default/files/resource-files/34SNAPmonthly-11.pdf
 U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service, Benefit Redemption Patterns in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, February 2011
 Mathematica, State-by-State Impact of Proposed Changes to “Broad-Based Categorical Eligibility” in SNAP, analysis of Fiscal Year 2016 SNAP Quality Control sample, https://www.mathematica.org/dataviz/impact-of-bbce-proposal-on-snap-caseloads
 Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Estimated Impacts in States That Would Be Hardest Hit by Administration’s Proposed Changes to SNAP Standard Utility Allowances (SUAs), analysis of USDA information. Not available via web, but will provide upon request.