Hunger & Food Security Policy Center


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Policy Statement on Hunger As part of its pursuit of social justice, a central tenet of Judaism, JSPAN has undertaken to educate and raise the consciousness of the Jewish community regarding its obligation to alleviate hunger and its causes. We believe:

  • that government has a strong and vital role to play in feeding hungry Americans;
  • that federal food programs, especially food stamps, are our nation's frontline defense against hunger, with the ability and capability to reach far more hungry and at-risk families than do charitable food programs; and
  • that many federal food programs, particularly those serving children, are underused and do not serve millions eligible for their benefits.

We believe that government can help by:

  • expanding outreach and enrollment efforts to ensure that all those eligible to receive food stamps in fact receive them;
  • fully funding the food components in child and adult care programs, in school breakfasts and school lunch programs, and in out-of-school time programs such as afterschool and summer feeding programs;
  • expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit; and
  • raising the minimum wage.

Here are the facts that we must teach our fellows Jews and other Americans:

  • 6 million children in the world under the age of 5 die every year as a result of hunger.
  • Virtually every country in the world has the potential of growing sufficient food on a sustainable basis. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has set the minimum requirement for caloric intake per person per day at 2,350, and worldwide there are 2,805 calories available per person per day. Yet fifty-four countries fall below that minimum requirement; they do not produce enough food to feed their populations, nor can they afford to import the necessary commodities to make up the gap.
  • 36 million individuals in America are food insecure.[1]
  • 13 million children in America are hungry or at the very edge of hunger.
  • The child poverty rate in the U.S. is much higher than the average child poverty rate for other developed countries.
  • Some of the consequences of chronic hunger in children are: infant mortality, poor cognitive development and increased risk of disease.
  • Over 10% of Americans 65 and older live in poverty.
  • If not for social security and other government benefits, 47.7% of Americans 65 and older would live in poverty.
  • According to the U. S. Department of Agriculture, the Food Stamp Program is the nation's single most important program in the fight against hunger.
  • More than half of the approximately 19 million food stamp recipients are children under 17. 33.2% are under the age of 5.
  • Nearly 90% of food stamp benefits go to households with either a child or a senior.
  • Despite the myth that food stamps create long-term dependency, half of food stamp recipients leave the program within 6 months.
  • Despite myths, food stamps can only be used to buy food, beverages and food-producing seeds or plants and NOT alcohol, tobacco, pet food, soap, or any other non-food item regardless of how essential.
  • The average gross income of food stamp households is $640 per month.
  • Four out of ten of those eligible for the Food Stamp Program are not receiving benefits.
  • $5 billion a year spent on Food Stamp and other nutrition programs could cut hunger and food insecurity in half in two years.

[1]"food insecure" may mean any of the following:  members of the household have no food and cannot afford to buy any, adults in the household skipped meals or ate less because there was not enough money for food, or the family worried that the food on hand would run out before there was money to buy more.

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The Hunger Policy Center is chaired by JSPAN board members Rabbi Robert Layman, Ruth Laibson and Margot Horwitz.

This Policy Center is advised by:

Ellen Teller is the Director for Government Affairs of the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) in Washington, D.C. Assisting in the development and implementation of FRAC's legislative agenda and work plan, she is the organization's key liaison with Congress and with the local grassroots field network.. An attorney who has held various positions in the non-profit world, Ellen is also Chair of the Board of Directors of the Coalition on Human Needs and Co-chair of the Social Policy Task Force of Women in Government Relations. 

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Read about the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger's Food Stamp Challenge taking place the week of July 17, 2006. JSPAN's Hunger Policy Center Expert Ellen Teller keynotes the World Food Day Event in Philadelphia. Read notes from her speech, The Politics of Hunger: Lessons Learned and Prospects for the Future. Number of Hungry and Food Insecure Americans Has Risen for the Fourth Straight Year According to FRAC, the Food Research and Action Center. Read FRAC's news release. JSPAN's Passover Response to Hunger. Click here for information.

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If you have an interest in serving on the Hunger Policy Center or have ideas for the Hunger Policy Center to consider, please send an email to