Senator Udall stresses importance of federal food assistance programs

Senator Udall stresses importance of federal food assistance programs

POSTED: Tuesday, December 3, 2013 - 6:12pm

UPDATED: Tuesday, December 3, 2013 - 6:13pm

United State Senator Tom Udall toured the Roadrunner Food Bank facility in Las Cruces Tuesday morning and emphasized the importance of federal food assistance programs.

New Mexico ranks worst in the country in the hunger rate and second worst overall.

"We know we've been through a tough recession, we have haven't gotten out of it and we need to preserve our safety net," Udall said during his tour.

Proposed cuts in the House of Representatives of $40 billion over 10 years to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) could make things even worse for those in need.

The SNAP program provides about $4 a day in benefits and serves more than 440,000 people or about 21 percent of New Mexico's population.

"The $40 billion over 10 years would be devastating," Udall said.

He said the proposed cuts would result in 32,000 people in New Mexico no longer receiving benefits.

Udall said if the program were cut entirely, every food bank in the country would have to double in size to meet the demand.

Resources that are not available at food banks after already being stretched thin.

"We would never have enough food if the private sector was required to feed them all," said Melody Wattenbarger, CEO of the Roadrunner Food Bank.

Wattenbarger stressed the importance of the government programs in partnership with the food banks efforts.

She said prior to the recession there was already a lot of hunger and things only got worse.

"If there were no SNAP program, the hunger would be widespread," Wattenbarger said.

On average people spend about eight to ten months on the program until they can get through whatever hardships are going on in their life.

The Roadrunner Food Bank distributes 2.4 million pounds of food in Dona Ana County annually.

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