Help maintain aid for the hungry

I was recently reminded that hunger in New Hampshire is real, pernicious and often invisible.

Earlier this year, Milford High School opened a food pantry for high school students who experience hunger outside the school day. On the first day food was available, I wrote a small note on my whiteboard announcing the pantry. Fewer than 15 minutes passed during my first class before a student approached my desk and asked sheepishly if the note on my board was “a joke.” I responded matter-of-factly that hunger is no joke, and hungry kids can’t learn. The student, sensing my sincerity, asked for a pass to the nurse for the end of class.

Supported by Share and administered discretely through the school nurse’s office, as many as 18 students a week avail themselves of staples like peanut butter, cereal, pasta and sauce. They are also provided fresh fruits and occasional treats like granola bars and instant hot chocolate they take home with them in sturdy reusable grocery bags.

I would never have known that my particular student was hungry. I assumed she put her head on the desk because my notes are tedious and my tangents hard to follow. It is important to remember that in southern New Hampshire, hunger is often hidden in plain sight.

Alarmingly, hungry New Hampshire children and families are now threatened by new legislation proposed by Republican state Sen. Kevin Avard. Using imported legislative templates devised by the conservative ideological think-tank the Foundation for Government Accountability, SB7 calls for recalculating the income and assets of the working poor to qualify for SNAP benefits. This recalculation would, according to N.H. Legal Action, knock 17,000 New Hampshire residents out of eligibility for this critical food assistance.

Under the misconception that hunger is caused by the moral failings of the impoverished, conservative pundits and politicians have maligned the safety net since the Johnson era. What’s new is the nationwide effort to forward mean-spirited and misinformed legislation based on the old lie there are millionaires with trust funds collecting food stamps. If these nefarious characters exist, they likely came in on mythical buses and fraudulently voted in the last New Hampshire elections.

This proposed legislation is both offensive and petty. It reflects the kind of animus that repudiates the poor under the mantel of fiscal responsibility. SB7 would keep New Hampshire from collecting federal money without saving the state funds. It is an ideological carpetbagger’s bill that must be quashed. Low-wage workers with families need the support that access to SNAP benefits offers. This horrific bill is now being considered by the Health and Human Services Committee of the state Senate. Please call or email the committee members to state your firm opposition to SB7:, 271-2609 (R)., 271-4151 (R)., 271-3042 (R)., 271-3092 (D)., 271-3067 (D).

Beth Haverkamp Powers