Seventy years ago, President Franklin Roosevelt delivered his historic “Four Freedoms” address to Congress and asserted that Americans, and all citizens of the world, had an essential human right to “freedom from want.”

In our work, “freedom from want” is a mandate that no one should go hungry. It means that protecting our most vulnerable should be our top priority as a nation.

But it’s not. Instead, many of our policymakers seem determined to shred our federal safety net – the very thing that helps the most vulnerable Americans actually survive. That’s not just a shame – it’s a scandal.

“Freedom from want” is a mandate that no one should go hungry. It means that protecting our most vulnerable should be our top priority as a nation.

Mutual needs

Our federal government was formed to create and uphold policies that protect the mutual needs and wants of the country, and its states and communities. As Hubert H. Humphrey explained, “Government is the means by which all the people acting together do for themselves those things that the people cannot do one by one. That is the great principle of government.”

As such, our government bears primary responsibility for safeguarding our freedom from want.

Nearly 50 years ago, our policymakers demonstrated that responsibility by re-launching the Food Stamp program — which is now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP — to help disadvantaged people afford the sustenance they need to live a healthy life.

SNAP is the manifestation of a fundamental idea, deeply rooted in Judaism and so many other faith traditions, that the community has an obligation to sustain its most vulnerable. SNAP represents our collective commitment, successfully realized on a national scale, that when times are tough, we will stand together and help families get back on their feet.

SNAP under attack

So here we are, 50 years later, still recovering from the worst economic downturn in generations. Far too many Americans still find themselves unable to make ends meet. And yet SNAP is under attack. In fact, Congress is currently arguing not about whether current funding for SNAP is adequate to meet the need, but about how much to cut.

Food is the most basic human need. Hungry children can’t learn, and hungry adults can’t work. They can’t create. They can’t heal. They can’t address any other priority because alleviating their hunger becomes the only priority.

Political will

What we need is the political will to ensure that all Americans have enough to eat.

And so it comes to us to reiterate our will. To tell Congressional leadership that Congress is failing to live up to our collective responsibility to help the most vulnerable, and that our country is missing the mark in protecting the right of our citizens to live free from want.