Run to feed the hungry

Jeff vonKaenel

It is Sacramento’s finest hour. Between 8:15 and 9:15 every Thanksgiving morning, thousands of Sacramento’s citizens, regardless of the weather, lace up their running shoes to run in an annual benefit for the Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services organization.

The largest Thanksgiving run in the country, Sacramento’s annual Run to Feed the Hungry raises approximately $1 million—roughly 20 percent of the Food Bank’s annual budget. I love the run. And the runners—the serious ones who are trying to improve their time, those who are having a wonderful time running in costume and the vast majority of us who experience the run as a way to give thanks. And somehow, getting up early and running in the cold means that the 29,000 people who ran this year have some sweat in the game. They have helped to reduce hunger in Sacramento.

But all of us who want to reduce hunger in America should be concerned that the viability of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, previously known as food stamps), is now in jeopardy because of the election of Donald Trump and the Republican Congress. Food banks are important for supplying emergency food, but eating healthful food should be an everyday event.

And for 46.4 million Americans, 44 percent of whom are age 18 or younger, the average $126.39 in monthly SNAP benefits helps ensure that eating is an everyday event.

The Republican platform supports separating the SNAP program from the Farm Bill, which many believe will make it easier for them to cut benefits. Many Republicans have been critical of the number of Americans eligible for SNAP benefits, called CalFresh in California. Particularly if there are tax cuts for the rich, which appears likely, there will almost certainly be pressure to cut expenditures on social programs to try to offset these increased costs. The SNAP program, with its $74 billion budget, is in the Republican crosshairs. House Republicans have already made cuts in the SNAP program. They wanted to cut deeper, but were stopped by a Democratic president.

But now what will happen? Trump is concerned that there are too many people on food stamps. Personally, I don’t understand why billionaires need a tax cut more than a hungry person needs food on their plate.

This will be the new Republican issue that has a solution without a problem. Concerned that minorities were voting Democratic, the Republicans put in voter ID measures that did nothing to reduce voter fraud, but were very effective in reducing minority turnout. Next on the agenda? Food stamp fraud reduction measures that do little to reduce fraud but are very effective at reducing participation. Republicans hope to institute revised work requirements for SNAP benefit eligibility which could cut off benefits for the working poor who have not tried “hard enough” to find a job.

Many of the SNAP recipients are parents working for near-minimum wage who don’t make enough to cover both rent and food. SNAP benefits ensure they don’t have to make that choice.

Here in Sacramento County, 200,000 of our neighbors depend upon food stamps. It is critical that we work, run or let our elected officials know that we don’t want our neighbors to go hungry. Our neighbors need our hearts and our sweat in the game.

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About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.