WASHINGTON—West Virginia public high school teacher and AFT-West Virginia Vice President Tega Toney testified today at a House Oversight Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy hearing titled “A Threat to America’s Children: The Trump Administration’s Proposed Changes to Broad-Based Categorical Eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.” The hearing was held in response to the Trump administration’s proposal that will cut off SNAP benefits for approximately 3 million Americans.
Toney, a social studies teacher at Oak Hill High School in Fayette County, W.Va., spoke on behalf of her students and their families: “The majority of my students come from households struggling to make ends meet. Many of my students are the primary caregiver to their younger siblings for various reasons—often it is a parent working three jobs to survive, but in other instances it is due to the crisis of opioid addiction that plagues many families. I have students who are homeless. I have students who have lost parents to an overdose. I have students who are working evening jobs, not to have spending money for frivolous desires, but to financially contribute to their families. For these reasons and so many more, it is disheartening and gut-wrenching to see a proposal to cut SNAP benefits that will make the mountain these children and families must climb a little taller and a little steeper.”
As part of her testimony, Toney detailed how food insecurity affects students academically as well as physically and emotionally. “It is difficult for those who have never experienced food insecurity to realize the devastating impact it has on families, communities and children. It permeates every aspect of every day to those who battle with it. That is why this proposal is so egregious. Unnecessarily putting our nation’s children at risk for food insecurity and the complications that accompany it is playing recklessly with their physical, emotional and academic well-being. As a nation, as a society, and as fellow human beings on earth—we are better than this,” Toney said.
AFT President Randi Weingarten also spoke out against President Trump’s proposed SNAP cuts and the administration’s practice of cutting resources for children and families:
“In the richest country in the world, in 2020, children are still going to bed at night hungry. They go to school unable to focus on learning because they’re distracted by their basic needs. We don’t lack for food in this country, but we lack the political will to provide for people who need it, and that’s shameful.
“This is not just bad policy—it’s immoral. We will see the negative effects play out in real time, as educators, school nurses, social workers and healthcare professionals are on the front lines of the fight against hunger in our schools and communities. It will be our teachers, paraprofessionals and food-service workers who will be filling the nutrition gaps created by this proposal and who will have to accommodate the additional stress and instability it will cause the children in our schools.
“Our children look to adults to take care of their well-being—that’s our responsibility. So instead of sitting on the sidelines watching our children be used as political pawns, we as educators, healthcare professionals and human beings pledge to continue fighting for the futures our children deserve.”