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"Now more than ever, we must take up the commandment to 'Defend the poor and the orphan; deal justly with the poor and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.'"
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WASHINGTON, D.C., July 21, 2010 -- A letter coordinated by the Religious Action Center and signed by more than 200 North American Rabbis from across the denominational spectrum was sent yesterday to Congressional leaders, advocating increased funding for programs in the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act. The full text of letter follows:
Dear Leader Reid, Leader McConnell, Speaker Pelosi, Leader Boehner, Senators Lincoln and Chambliss, and Representatives Miller and Kline,
As Rabbis, we write you to urge action on the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act. With more than 31 million children participating every school day, the Child Nutrition Programs are our country's most direct and effective way of combating food insecurity among children. As such, it is crucial that these programs are fully funded so that we can move closer to accomplishing our goal of ending childhood hunger by 2015.
We read in the Babylonian Talmud "Do not neglect the children of the poor, for from them will go forth the Law." (Nedarim 18a) These words continue to inspire our understanding of the importance of ensuring children are well fed, and have all the tools they need to become positively contributing, self-sufficient adults.
Child Nutrition Reauthorization legislation has been introduced in both the House (the Improving Nutrition for America's Children Act, H.R. 5504) and Senate (the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, S. 3307). Though they differ on specifics, both bills make significant strides toward improving the content of the meals and their accessibility to children in need. The bills' investments in the Child Nutrition Programs provide the first real increase in funding in over 40 years. This funding increase could not be more timely: the United States Department of Agriculture reported that in 2008, 49.1 million Americans lived in food insecure households, 16.7 million of whom are children. This figure represents 22.5% of all American children - a startling number that is only expected to grow when the 2009 food insecurity data is released this fall. Now more than ever, we must take up the commandment to "Defend the poor and the orphan; deal justly with the poor and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked" (Psalm 82:3-4).
We recognize that Congress has many priorities. However, given that the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Programs has already been delayed one year, this issue must be made a priority. Child Nutrition Programs such as the National School Lunch Program not only impact the number of hungry children in our country, but they also improve attendance and test scores, decrease nurse visits and behavioral issues. The Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act also claims bipartisan support: the Senate version of the bill passed unanimously out of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and 221 bipartisan members of the House of Representative recently signed a "Dear Colleague" letter in support of a robust reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Programs.
We are taught in Deuteronomy (15:7-10), "If there is among you a poor man...you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him, and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be." We urge you, in that spirit, to take swift action on the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Programs. For millions of children and struggling families, these programs provide an irreplaceable financial and nutritional lifeline. During these difficult economic times, easing the burden on those most vulnerable must be our number one priority.