Jordan Baker email@example.com
Statement attributable to Luis Guardia, President, Food Research & Action Center (FRAC)
WASHINGTON, September 12, 2023 — Poverty in America surged dramatically in 2022 according to the data released today by the U.S. Census Bureau. Without Congressional action, matters likely will continue to worsen as countless families grapple with the expiration of COVID-19 pandemic-era interventions.
The Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM): 2022 report accounts for income from a variety of federal programs aimed at helping individuals and families with low incomes, including the refundable tax credits, such as the Child Tax Credit, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), school meals, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
According to the SPM data, in 2022,
- there was a significant 60 percent increase in poverty, from 7.8 percent in 2021 to 12.4 percent in 2022;
- child poverty rose at an unprecedented rate, more than doubling from 5.2 to 12.4 percent; and
- Native Americans and Alaska Natives had the highest poverty rate compared to other racial and ethnic groups, which jumped from 12.4 percent in 2021 to 23.2 percent by 2022.
These numbers are alarming and inexcusable when solutions exist. For instance, the combination of pandemic expansions to SNAP and school meals that remained in effect during 2022 moved 5.1 million people out of poverty, about 1.7 million more people than in 2021.
The Expanded Child Tax Credit (CTC) also was a game changer during the pandemic, lifting nearly 3 million children out of poverty in 2021. The tax credit also served as a critical investment to address the root causes of hunger and racial disparities. Decades of housing segregation, employment discrimination, and over-policing are a few of the wide-ranging barriers that have resulted in higher levels of food insecurity among communities of color. Making permanent and more inclusive the expanded CTC would address these challenges and improve equitable outcomes in health, nutrition, and housing.
We know what works, and we can and must do better.
It’s time for Congress to get the nation back on track in the fight against poverty, the root cause of hunger.
The 2023 Farm Bill provides an important opportunity to pull millions of children and adults out of poverty-related hunger. America needs a strong Farm Bill that will protect and strengthen SNAP, our nation’s first line of defense against hunger. This includes ensuring equitable access to the program and adequate SNAP benefits. Now that the temporary emergency SNAP benefits have ended, families are left, on average, with a meager benefit of less than $6 per person per day. The expansion of time limits for the unemployed and underemployed will cut hundreds of thousands of individuals from the SNAP program. Cuts to SNAP benefits disproportionately impact communities of color – especially contributing to worsening health and educational outcomes.
Millions of families experienced the benefits of free school meals during the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 school years, as schools across the country offered meals to all of their students at no charge. These meals helped stretch budgets and fueled children’s health and learning. The nationwide waivers that allowed schools to offer free healthy school meals to all of their students expired in June 2022, placing more financial burden on households. Fortunately, eight states took the important step of enacting a Healthy School Meals for All policy. Congress must follow their lead and make free school meals for all children a permanent part of the school day.
And we need to prioritize the well-being of our nation’s youngest by building on pandemic interventions to modernize WIC, including accessing benefits remotely and committing substantial funding to enable all who are eligible to participate in the program.
To that end, Congress must pass a Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 Agriculture Appropriations bill to ensure WIC can work to its best ability and continue serving the more than 6.7 million women and young children who rely on the program.
Ending poverty and hunger in America is possible. We just need political will.
The Food Research & Action Center improves the nutrition, health, and well-being of people struggling against poverty-related hunger in the United States through advocacy, partnerships, and by advancing bold and equitable policy solutions. To learn more, visit FRAC.org and follow us on X (formerly Twitter), Facebook, and Instagram.