As part of the budget deal in 2011, Republicans and Democrats agreed to set up a crisis -- with deep cuts to domestic programs and tax increases for nearly everyone on Dec. 31.
Too many families are in crisis already. And too many more are threatened by proposed solutions.
Among them: cuts to nutrition assistance for our most vulnerable.
Congress has put deep cuts to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program -- commonly known as "food stamps" -- on the table again and again. It's easy to see why: Children don't vote.
Some people are surprised to learn that children are more vulnerable to hunger than anyone else. It's no surprise to us. In Alameda County, more than 70 percent of households receiving SNAP benefits are home to a child. Nearly 90 percent of SNAP households are home to a child, a senior or someone with a disability.
And SNAP does more than any food bank like ours can do alone.
A prolonged recession and cuts to our safety net have redefined our missions beyond emergency food. Too many households -- many of them working families -- rely on soup kitchens and food pantries month after month because after rent and utilities, transportation to and from work and some warm clothes for their children, there simply isn't enough left over to put a healthy meal on the table.
The rapid growth of SNAP rolls tell us that there is a problem. But the problem of poverty is bigger than anything private nonprofits can solve alone. Cuts to SNAP won't make hunger go away. And our food banks, loved though they are, do not have the magic to fill another gap.
This is not about "cost savings" or "fiscal responsibility."
This affects real people. A construction worker, whose hours were cut down to nothing, facing a rent bill and a hungry family. A child too young to know her parents skip meals so she can eat. A senior who stretches a single can of soup for three days to afford a doctor's visit.
This should be about ensuring that our neighbors -- our friends, our family, our co-workers -- have the food they need to survive and thrive. Our community simply can't afford to let our children, seniors and working families go hungry in the name of deficit reduction.
Surely a country as great as ours can agree: Food should not be a luxury.
Let's remind the people we elected of that.
Suzan Bateson is executive director of the Alameda County Community Food Bank. For more information, visit www.accfb.org.