A recent announcement that homeless facilities in the Salt Lake area will be relocated has political and community leaders hustling to find ways to address concerns about the future of a growing number of residents in need of housing, health care, and food.
A leader of a national Christian service organization is encouraging those same leaders to prepare now for possible policy changes to programs designed to help the hungry.
In Utah, volunteers with the Salt Lake City Mission are preparing for an annual Christmas Food Box Giveaway for Friday. They are asking for donations to help ensure that everyone seeking a meal will get one. Frozen turkeys, hams, and food boxes will be taken to families in need. The service organization is also preparing for Sunday's Christmas Day meal.
"So it is really important that people of conscious pay attention and speak up for people in need right now." says Reverend David Beckmann, President of Bread for the World.
The national service organization works with representatives from different denominations to monitor and change policies and conditions that allow hunger to persist. Reverend Beckmann says members of the group are seeking long-term solutions to hunger and are encouraging support of federal and state policies that addresses the root causes of hunger.
"The government can establish a framework in which struggling families, businesses, and charity and churches help to overcome hunger or reduce hunger," says Beckmann. "On the other hand, government sometimes makes decisions that overwhelm what we can do."
In Utah 1 in 8 households struggle to put food on the table, and over 11% of the population live below the poverty line. Beckmann says those individuals depend on national nutrition programs including WIC and foot stamps. According to Beckmann, these programs provide twenty bags of groceries for hungry people compared to every single bag of food mobilized through churches and charities.
"So, if say next year Congress decides to cut the federal food programs by ten percent, that will just overwhelm everything that we do through charitable channels," he says.
In the United States, 1 in 6 children struggles with hunger, and 43 million Americans live in poverty. Beckmann is concerned that there are more Americans living in poverty than reside in the state of California.