Editorial: Food before football — Long Island’s uphill battle against childhood hunger

Editorial: Food before football — Long Island’s uphill battle against childhood hunger

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We have a hunger problem on Long Island. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity as “a household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food.” Last year, Long Island Cares published a study that states as many as 230,000 Long Islanders are food insecure, with a staggering 68,000 food insecure children. These estimates come as food prices and inflation continue to climb.

The United States has the largest national economy by GDP on the planet. We lead the world in scientific and technological innovation as well as defense spending. Still, nearly 70,000 children right here on Long Island are food insecure.

In our democracy, citizens finance the government with the understanding that our tax dollars will advance meaningful public ends. In exchange for our votes, we expect government officials to plow our roads, secure our neighborhoods and ameliorate the condition of society in common. 

Unfortunately, politicians don’t always follow these guidelines, instead pursuing the policy preferences of the donor class financing their campaigns. Too often, our elected representatives serve special interest groups over ordinary citizens.

The next national budget asks Congress for $858 billion in defense spending — a figure that dwarfs the $122 billion budget request for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. 

While we certainly acknowledge the necessity of national security, we remind our leaders to balance this priority with the equally significant need of feeding children. The values of providing for the common defense and promoting the general welfare are not mutually exclusive.

For New York state, Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) has proposed cutting funding for the state’s Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program — which funds food banks and pantries — from $56 million to some $35 million. 

This proposal comes less than a year after Hochul helped broker a deal to construct a new football stadium for the Buffalo Bills — whose owner is worth $6.7 billion — using $600 million in taxpayer funds.

The governor’s decision to prioritize football over food banks is inexcusable, in part benefiting millionaire athletes and a billionaire owner at the expense of hungry Long Island school children. We encourage Hochul to reconsider her budget request, making the appropriate investment in alleviating hunger in our communities.

As with any complex social issue, we cannot blame any person or group. But we must ask ourselves if our elected leaders can do more to combat food insecurity. Fortunately, we have recourse. 

Organizations such as Agape Meals for Kids and Long Island Cares are contributing valuably, working to address food insecurity on Long Island and eliminate hunger. We should support such organizations by donating money or volunteering our time. 

Childhood hunger should be regarded as a national security risk and a critical societal danger. Children are the next generation of soldiers, workers and leaders in this country. If adequately fed, they will be more competent in school and more successful in life. If not, the entire nation loses.

We must hold our representatives to a higher standard and do our part to support nonprofits making a change. With our aims in focus, let us end childhood hunger on Long Island.

For an Island as rich as ours, to have 68,000 children go hungry every day is more than unconscionable. It’s a sin.