Charlie O’Reilly: Stand up for food access

July 27, 2016 in Charlie's Corner Harvest Time Newsletter

Charlie's Corner3Greetings from the O’Reilly Center for Hunger Relief!

Our elected state and federal representatives are making decisions every day that affect our way of life and well-being.

As supporters of Ozarks Food Harvest, I believe it is our responsibility to stand up against proposed changes that would make it harder for our neighbors to get the food assistance they desperately need. Access to food should be a right of all Americans.

In the midst of these summer months when families struggle to put food on the table, a new initiative titled “A Better Way” was presented by the House Task Force on Poverty, Opportunity and Upward Mobility outlining their plan to tackle the widespread issue of poverty and hunger, among other pressing topics.

Solving hunger for our region and the nation is critical if we want to create better and healthier communities. My friends at Ozarks Food Harvest are thankful the report is starting a national conversation about the issue of poverty, but some of the proposal would make it harder for those who are hungry to get help putting food on the table.

We like that the federal plan to address hunger affirms that people should be provided opportunity to make a better life. This includes improving much-needed access to Summer Food and After-School Food programs for food insecure children. But the report also outlines instituting harmful increased work and training requirements for recipients of SNAP, or food stamps.

The changes to SNAP requirements would make it harder for people to get back on their feet.

Adequate jobs aren’t easy to come by, and Bart shared that increasing requirements for SNAP recipients without guaranteeing access to income assistance, training and support in finding employment ultimately does more harm than good. We don’t object to work requirements for physically able recipients of SNAP, but this proposal would make it too difficult for many recipients to obtain basic food supplies. I agree that the focus should be on strengthening employment and training programs and ensuring that child care and transportation, among other supports, are available for people able to work.

And the reality is that for some living in the Ozarks, even full-time jobs don’t provide enough to pay for the essentials.

Amidst the debate and rhetoric addressing the heartbreaking issue of hunger, I hope our representatives remember that people’s well-being and hope for a better future hangs in the balance. None of us should forget that behind each statistic is a person who needs a little extra help putting food on the table.

Twelve-year-old Jazmyne shared, “Our dad gets $30 every payday at his job, but the $30 only covers the bills for the house. [Ozarks Food Harvest] helps my family so we can have food on the table to eat.”

As a supporter of Ozarks Food Harvest, please join me in contacting your representatives from Congress today through the Feeding America advocacy hotline, 888-398-8702, or contact them through their websites and ask them to make hunger relief a priority: Sen. Claire McCaskill,; Sen. Roy Blunt,; and Rep. Billy Long,

Private charities working side-by-side with social programs are essential to ensure our neighbors have something to eat.

Your continued support of the hunger-relief work at Ozarks Food Harvest helps local families in need, and is greatly appreciated by Food Bank staff and the people they serve. Browse our website or give Bart a call today to learn more about how you can stand up for food access in our community.

Charlie O’Reilly is the vice-chair of O’Reilly Automotive’s Board of Directors, a hunger-relief advocate and supporter of Ozarks Food Harvest.