Mississippi UMC Participates in Conference Call on Proposed SNAP Cuts

10/31/2013

To listen to a recording of the media briefing conference call that includes a statement from the Rev. Dr. Connie Shelton, the director of communications and connectional ministries for the Mississippi Annual Conference, dial (605) 475-4099 using access code 1044250#. Then press # again to listen to the most recent recording. The message below was released to the public October 30, 2013. 

 
Southern Religious Leaders 
Oppose Proposed SNAP Cuts
Congregations Would Be Unable to Cover Costs of Feeding Programs for Communities in Need

WASHINGTON, D.C. - In response to proposed cuts by both theHouse and the Senate to the nation's primary food assistance program, top religious leaders from around the Southeast today spoke out in support of this vital program, responding to the assumption of some federal lawmakers that faith communities can pick up the cost of cuts to the USDA's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). 

 

In advance of the first public meeting of the Farm Bill conference committee today, top religious leaders from across the South hosted a media briefing conference call to discuss concerns about the effect of SNAP cuts on the poor and working poor in a region of the nation with the highest rates of poverty. 

 

With federal financial support for SNAP decreasing and individual need increasing, religious social services are overwhelmed with the nation's economic struggles--reflected not only in their efforts to keep up with need, but in the budgets of their own congregants. According to a study by the Barna Group, Americans reduced their annual tithing and giving by 34 percent in a three-month span between April 2012 and July 2012, and 11 percent of those who reduced their giving stopped altogether. While faith-based giving continues to decrease, the demand for services continues to rise. Nationwide, religiously affiliated food pantries and soup kitchens are seeing up to a 100 percent increase in need, up from the past three years. 

 

Bread for the World estimates there are approximately 350,000 religious congregations in the U.S. The House would cut $40 billion from SNAP, adding to the $11 billion in cuts resulting from the premature expiration of the 2009 Recovery Act. (The act, also known as ARRA, increased SNAP benefits as a way of reducing economic hardship and boosting economic recovery.) To make up for these reductions, each religious congregation in the U.S. would need to increase its food assistance by nearly $15,000 a year for the next 10 years, totaling more than $145,000.  

 

According to the latest analysis from the Food Research and Action Center, SNAP caseload in the eight Southeastern states has increased 65.9 percent over the past 5 years. In 2012 alone, more than 11.5 million residents in these states participated in the SNAP program, amounting to 18.5 percent of their total populations. The table below details the individual child poverty rates and rankings for each of the Southeastern states, as well as the rate of increase in SNAP recipients since the recession. By comparison, the national child poverty rate is 22.6 percent, which means every Southeastern state exceeds the U.S. average.

State

Child Poverty Rate

National Rank

Total SNAP Recipients

Rate of Increase since the Recession

Alabama

27.5%

5

910,244

59.2%

Georgia

27.2%

6

1,912,839

87.3%

Florida

25.4%

14

3,353,064

130.5%

Kentucky

26.5%

9

849,248

34.1%

Mississippi

34.7%

1

659,872

47.6%

North Carolina

26.0%

11

1,668,588

76.2%

South Carolina

26.9%

8

869,801

47.5%

Tennessee

25.8%

12

1,316,810

44.5%

 

Studies from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities show SNAP to be highly efficient. Ninety-five percent of funds through SNAP go directly to food assistance; fewer than 2 percent of funds are issued to households in error. A critical tool in helping families and children escape poverty, SNAP is responsible for lifting 4 million people out of poverty in 2012 (a record high) and reducing hardship for millions more. Few charities or other government programs match this level of performance. 

 

This latest round of SNAP cuts comes when national public support for the SNAP program is at an all-time high. According to a recent poll by the Food Research and Action Center, 73 percent of respondents oppose cuts to SNAP, with 51 percent strongly believing SNAP cuts are the wrong way to address the federal deficit. A resounding 43 percent of respondents believe the federal government should be spending more to address hunger in America.

 

The Reverend Ken Carter, Bishop of the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church, explained, "Congregations are already engaged in direct response to communities, and specifically hunger, across the South. While tithing is decreasing, giving by local churches to human need is not decreasing, but increasing. This is due to the faithfulness and sacrifices of women and men who listen to sermons and respond with God's compassion. At the same time, the dramatic cuts to SNAP and the corresponding proposed shift of responsibility are beyond the capacity of faith communities to address."

 

The media briefing conference call was supported by the following national leaders:

  •  The Reverend Ken Carter, Bishop, Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church
  • The Reverend Gregory S. Walton, President, The Florida-Georgia District of The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod
  • The Reverend Robert G. Schaefer, Bishop of the Florida-Bahamas Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
  • The Reverend Dr. Russell L. Meyer, Executive Director, Florida Council of Churches
  • Bishop Terry Allen White, Episcopal Diocese of Kentucky
  • The Reverend Dr. Eric Mount, Justice Advocacy Commission, Kentucky Council of Churches
  • Father Patrick Delahanty, Executive Director, Catholic Conference of Kentucky
  • The Reverend Julie Pennington-Russell, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Decatur, Ga.
  • The Reverend Dr. D. Scott Weimer, Senior Pastor, North Avenue Presbyterian Church, Atlanta, Ga.
  • The Reverend J. George Reed, Executive Director, North Carolina Council of Churches
  • Bishop Hope Morgan Ward, North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church
  • The Reverend Betty L. Meadows, Transitional General Presbyter, Presbytery of Charlotte, N.C.
  • The Reverend Roland Hayes, Pastor, Overlook Christian Church, Mobile, Ala.
  • Marilyn D. King, M.A., LBSW, Executive Director for Catholic Social Services, Archdiocese of Mobile
  • The Reverend Diane Baldwin, Pastor, Georgetown-Chunchula United Methodist Church, Chunchula, Ala.
  • Bishop James E. Swanson, Sr., Mississippi Conference of the United Methodist Church
  • The Rev. Dr. Connie M. Shelton, Mississippi Conference of the United Methodist Church
  • The Rt. Reverend Andrew Waldo, VIIIth Bishop, The Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina
  • The Reverend Dr. Herman R. Yoos III, Bishop of the South Carolina Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
  • The Reverend Warner Durnell, Presbytery Executive for the Presbytery of Middle Tennessee
  • Suzii Paynter, Executive Coordinator, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Atlanta, Ga.
  • Rabbi Laurie Rice, Congregation Micah, Brentwood, Tenn.
  • Bishop William T. McAlilly, Nashville Episcopal Area: Memphis and Tennessee Conferences
  •  Bishop Paul L. Leeland, Alabama-West Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church