Did I get your attention with the title of this post, because those words definitely grabbed my attention a few days ago. I follow the news and have been aware of all the discussion surrounding the proposed budget recently released by President Trump. I am disheartened to read about the cuts he wants to make in funding for education, the arts and humanities. I worry for the future of the planet I will leave to my children when I see the proposed cuts to the EPA, Department of Energy, and NASA. While these cuts, if enacted, will result in changes in my world, those changes will not be calamitous for me or my family (although I worry we are getting close on the climate). Another group of proposed cuts, however, worries me greatly, because I understand that unlike me and my family, those affected by this group of cuts will be impacted quite adversely and sooner rather than later. The cuts to which I am referring are proposed for the budgets of the Departments of Agriculture, Housing and Urban Development, and Health and Human Services and will affect programs designed to assist those who are food insecure, like Meals on Wheels, Women, Infants and Children Nutrition Assistance (WIC), and government provided food to emergency food providers.
I did not realize how quickly or severely these already vulnerable segments of our population were going to be affected until I read a recent post of Facebook. The local Philadelphia CBS station interviewed two key staff members at the Chester County Food Bank (CCFB) about the effect President Trump’s proposed budget would have on the CCFB and its network of affiliated food pantries and cupboards as well as the Meals on Wheels program operated out of CCFB. While I knew these proposed cuts would definitely impact the food pantry in which I volunteer, I was not quite prepared for what I read in this interview. Phoebe Kitson, Director for Agency and Community Partnerships describes the impact these proposed budget cuts will have on CCFB as “devastating and instantaneous”. Jeani Purcell, with Chester County Meals on Wheels says the budget cut would result in a huge loss for Chester County’s Meals on Wheels program, as 35% of their budget comes from government contracts.
I understood when I first heard about this proposed budget that it would hurt people, not nameless, faceless people, but people I interact with every week at the food pantry. I just didn’t quite realize that the impact would be “devastating and instantaneous”. I can tell you our clients understand it will hit them and hit them hard. Prior to the release of this proposed budget, several clients, all of them seniors, expressed their concern about possibly loosing their healthcare and just how difficult getting by would be for them if the Affordable Care Act were to be repealed. Now imagine if on top of loosing your healthcare, the food pantry you already turn to for assistance can no longer provide the amount of aid it has been able to provide in the past. At a time when some need help more than ever, they will have to get by with even less.
These proposed budget cuts are drastic and take aim at some of America’s already most vulnerable citizens. Meals on Wheels and food banks provide food aid to populations who desperately need it–seniors, the disabled, veterans, children. They will hurt real people, people in our neighborhood, people I know. But right now these proposed cuts are just that, proposed. I urge you to monitor the status of this proposed budget as well as any other legislation that takes aim at our already threadbare social safety net. Then please contact your legislators and make your voice heard.