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By Fr. Travis Russell, SJ

December 15, 2020 — This Christmas, 50 million Americans, including 17 million children, will not have food on their tables. The pandemic has heightened an existing hunger crisis in the U.S. With over 63 million unemployment claims filed since March, families are struggling to make ends meet. Food banks and other community-based organizations are overwhelmed by the need. Charity alone is not enough to keep families from going hungry this winter. We need justice, too — federal policies that will increase food and housing assistance so that everyone can celebrate this holiday season.

Regardless of faith, Americans share basic holiday traditions — grace, generosity and gratitude. Traditions, indeed, are avenues for grace.  And in the Catholic tradition, the most special of these we call sacraments. As Americans, then, the holiday season has its own sacramental qualities, such as cooking a meal and eating together around a table. After all, in its most basic form, what is a church altar but a slightly elevated kitchen table? The actions we perform on an altar and on a kitchen table can often be the same.  At both, we come together, as family; we take bread; we bless it with a prayer; we break it; and eat it. Finally, we share our bread with those in need.

The Bible puts it plainly:  “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food,  and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?” (James 2:15-16)

There’s no shortage of food in the U.S., yet many families cannot afford wholesome meals. We can change that. With immediate federal action, the U.S. can ensure that no family goes hungry this holiday.

Right now, the Jesuits are working with our interfaith partners to urge Congress to pass a meaningful COVID relief package. Through increasing SNAP benefits (food stamps) by 15 percent, we can offer families immediate relief from hunger and food insecurity. I humbly urge you to join our advocacy. Tell your members of Congress you support COVID relief and increasing SNAP benefits.

Then, all Americans, can eat and celebrate at their kitchen tables this season.

You can take action with us to support stimulus payments for all American families. You can also tweet your Congressional representatives to advocate for a SNAP increase, using the template below.

Call your representatives at the Capitol Hill switchboard: 1-800-826-3688.