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The return of hunger to America


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* Item: Because of the combined effects of the long recession and Reagan cuts in the unemployment insurance program, only 40 percent of the unemployed now receive unemployment benefits - compared with two-thirds who had benefits during the 1975 recession. And because of the aforementioned restrictions on obtaining food stamps, the long-vanquished terror for the unemployed of not being able to feed their families is returning.

* Item: The administration has continued to push for cuts in the WIC program that would terminate food aid to more than 600,000 low-income pregnant women, infants, and children starting next year. This in the face of a Harvard School of Public Health study showing that for every dollar spent on pregnant women through WIC, three dollars are saved in government-subsidized medical costs. When we cut programs like WIC we are increasing health costs, special-education costs, and even criminal-justice costs - not to mention the human cost of failing to feed poor starving children.

The success of WIC and other such programs through the 1970s made me dream that someday there would be no more hunger in America. But President Reagan's shortsighted budget slashing has deferred the dream and the economy as well. And his policies also have cut short the futures of many in our next generation.

If this President wants to know the problems of hunger, he needs to look no further than the Oval Office and reflect on the policies of his administration. It is time that you, Mr. President, started taking responsibility for the results of your own policies.

A nation cannot long stand on the shoulders of citizens weakened by malnutrition.


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