CLEVELAND — President Joe Biden has set out the ambitious goal of ending hunger in the United States by the year 2030. However, food banks in Northeast Ohio say they are looking for more immediate relief.
The federal government has not made changes to the country's food policy agenda since 1969, when President Richard Nixon's administration led the way for a major expansion of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps, and gave rise to the Women, Infants and Children program, which serves half the babies born in the U.S. by providing their mothers with parenting advice, breastfeeding support and food assistance.
According to federal officials, some 10% of U.S. households in 2021 suffered food insecurity.
President Biden's plan has a lot of elements that both the Greater Cleveland Food Bank and the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank have discussed with the White House Hunger Committee, Feeding America, and the USDA for years, including simplifying benefit assistance applications and extending support for free meals for school children through the summer.
The plan also highlights more funding for food banks. On Wednesday, Biden highlighted a $3.85 million commitment from the Publix grocery store chain to supply food to local food banks and establish free mobile food pantries.
But while the leaders of Northeast Ohio's food banks agree that a strategy to fight under for the future is needed, they want a bigger focus on areas that can be solved now.
Among the changes they cite is more federal protection through the Farm Bill.
"There are times where Cleveland has been deemed the number one large city for child poverty, so protections would allow for universal, free breakfast and lunch programs for children in our community and widen access to families in need," explains Tiffany Scruggs of the Greater Cleveland Food Bank.
"We have a request in the state of Ohio for American Rescue Plan dollars as well to support food banks in the long term through food purchasing and also help our long-term capacity to provide nutritious food for the families that need our help now and in the future," adds Katie Carver Reed of the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank.
Biden's plan also includes additional funding for the Emergency Food Assistance Program and a partnership with Meijer that would offer 10% discounts for SNAP program users. The food banks say SNAP is widely used by many Northeast Ohio families.
The Associated Press contributed to this story