With all the crises facing the world, it’s easy to forget about what’s going on in Harrisburg. But with several issues on the table that could adversely affect our community and beyond — not to mention an impending budget battle — we need to pay attention to our state capital.
One measure in particular — the Corbett administration’s decision to reintroduce an “asset test” in order to qualify for food assistance — demands action.
Pennsylvania’s Department of Public Welfare last year announced that beginning this May, recipients would have to have a limited amount of “countable assets” — savings or possessions like a second car — in order to qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP.
The program, which is funded primarily with federal funds but is state-administered, provides an average of $35 a week in food vouchers. An estimated 800,000 low-income Pennsylvanians currently are enrolled in SNAP.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia has taken an active lead among hunger relief organizations to oppose this effort. Working with the Pennsylvania Jewish Coalition, the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger and others, officials have met with the Corbett administration and other political figures in Harrisburg to press this issue.
Officials have already responded to the outcry, moving to raise the threshold from $2,000 to $5,500 for households; from $3,200 to $9,000 for households with seniors or disabled individuals.
But that is not enough. The pervasiveness of food insecurity in our region and in this country is a shonda, a disgrace. Statistics show that in Philadelphia, one in four people struggles to put food on the table, and nearly one in three rely on SNAP.
The most vulnerable, according to experts, are seniors with a nest egg or the newly unemployed.
As we begin to prepare for Passover, it is timely to remember the words of the Haggadah: “Let all who are hungry come and eat.” Throughout our history, we as Jews have been commanded to remember the hungry and the disadvantaged. And not just to remember, but to do something.
So what can you do? First sign a petition urging the governor to abandon the asset test. (Go to: change.org, search food asset and click on the petition led by Miram Boss.)
Second, sign up for action alerts from the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger (hungercoalition.org) to stay on top of the issue. Last, when you’re cleaning your pantries out for Passover, remember to donate to the Mitzvah Food Project and other local food organizations.
It’s easy to be moved by the plight of those struggling to put food on their table. It’s harder to take the time to do something about it. Now is that time.