Photos by Emily N. Tanaka.
Local kids rallied together on Wednesday morning at Perry Lindsay Middle School to protest proposed federal cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as part of the Children’s Defense Fund’s (CDF) 2017 National Day of Social Action.
In President Trump’s 2018 federal budget, SNAP, also known as food stamps, would be cut by 29 percent, according to CDF Youth Organizer Jordan Le Blanc. The “No Hungry Child” rally was a way for children attending the CDF’s Freedom Schools summer program to speak up against the cuts and show that they too have a voice in our government.
The rallying youth proudly marched the yard, chanting, singing and carrying signs and empty paper plates to represent child hunger in the United States. After the march and an inspirational song, a few young representatives of every age group stood before a crowd of their peers, supporters, members of the local government and representatives from the health department and gave a speech about child hunger.
Many of the speeches, written by the kids, talked about President Trump’s proposed 2018 federal budget and the potential 28 percent cut to the SNAP program. One young speaker, soon-to-be fifth grader Gabriel, addressed the president directly in his speech, asking the commander in chief to consider the consequences of the budget cuts and how many people would suffer.
“I would like to ask President Trump not to cut the SNAP program budget. It is very important to most people,” Gabriel said. “Imagine if it was you. You and your kids, having to decide between you eating or your kids eating. Buying clothes, of buying food. Pay your rent, or buy food. How would you feel?”
About 45.1 percent of the individuals enrolled in SNAP, a federal program that offers nutrition assistance to low-income individuals, are children, according to Feeding America. Even though the federal government’s 2018 budget has not yet passed, a reduction in SNAP benefits has already taken effect, taking a toll on local families.
A single mother of three children at the Success in Challenges CDF Freedom Schools site in Long Beach has already had her SNAP benefits cut from $600 a month to $10 a month, according to Le Blanc.
The Freedom School, birthed from the 1964 civil rights movement, is a six-week summer Children’s Defense Fund program that tries to get students excited about reading, increases their literacy and teaches them how to civilly engage with their community. CDF Freedom School is just one of the many program locations nationwide.
For the Long Beach Freedom School, the rally is just the beginning of their work towards saving people’s nutritional benefits. The organization will continue to host their after-school and summer programs that teaches and feeds students. The students in the summer program will also continue the letter writing campaign to city and state officials asking what they will do to help compensate for the cuts to SNAP. Through this work, Le Blanc hopes the students will learn more about their society and see that, despite how big the federal government may seem, their voices matter.
“I hope they have the realization that their voice does matter and they learn to stand up for themselves, their family and their community as well as teach them that they truly can make a difference.” Le Blanc said.