Note: This has been edited to address recent developments since initial release of January 9, 2019.
Statement attributed to Ken Regal, executive director, Just Harvest: A Center for Action Against Hunger
PITTSBURGH, PA, January 9, 2019 — Just Harvest: A Center for Action Against Hunger calls on Republican elected officials in the White House and Congress to immediately end the partial shutdown of federal government so it can fulfill all of its critical functions. They should not require Congress to first meet the president’s demands on border wall construction nor debate his immigration policy proposals. Congress should not allow any president to dictate the terms under which the government can operate.
Pennsylvania was able to access dwindling SNAP funds by issuing February food stamps in January. Recipients will have to make those dollars stretch until their usual food stamps allotment date in March. But should the shutdown persist, it will inevitably block eligible adults and children from receiving food stamps, WIC, school meals, and tax refunds.
The shutdown debate is no longer about overflowing trash cans at the Lincoln Memorial. Disrupting needed food and income to tens of millions of vulnerable adults and children in poverty is a fundamental moral outrage that should offend every American, no matter their position on “the wall.”
Unfortunately, there is nothing that Just Harvest or anyone can do to make up that huge gap. If the federal government fails to fulfill its upcoming obligations in the food stamp program alone, our clients and their families will be among the 149,000 Allegheny County residents who would suffer the consequences, as will the local workers and businesses that rely on those dollars, from truck drivers to checkout clerks to supermarket owners. Ad hoc charity will not be able to compensate for this huge blow to the nation’s safety net. The only viable response is political; everyone affected by this, or who cares about the fundamental injustice of it, must join a mass movement to demand action.
All federal officials must clean up this mess, but we take President Trump at his word when he said publicly that he “would be proud to shut down the government . . . to wear the mantle of the shutdown.” The willingness of the President to hold tens of millions of people’s food budgets hostage to his failed promise that Mexico would pay for his wall is the worst failure of leadership in this nation since Herbert Hoover’s inept and inhumane response to the Great Depression.
President Trump’s unilateral decision to shut down the government was based on his own broken promises, advanced and justified by an ever-expanding pack of lies, and now threatens to create untold human suffering for hungry people across America. That is simply evil.
JUST HARVEST addresses hunger’s root causes – economic justice – by improving public policy, boosting food access, and building community power in Allegheny County.