Hunger to bite more Americans, Muslim group warns


Members of Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association pose for a picture during their visit to the Capitol on Friday. (Ahmadiyya Muslim Association)

Correction: The name of AMYA President Bilal Rana was previously misspelled.

The number of Americans suffering from hunger is expected to rise after a cut in food stamp benefits, a Muslim nonprofit has warned.

Leaders of Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association (AMYA)  said over the weekend that more than 50 million Americans are struggling to put food on the table.

In February, more than 850,000 households lost an average of $90 a month after President Obama assented to the 2014 Farm Bill.

The omnibus law will cut $8.7 billion in food stamp benefits over the next 10 years in what its proponents termed as reduction of “fraud and misuse” of the program, which seeks to provide a cushion for the vulnerable.

More than 250 Ahmadiyya Muslims in black and white uniforms, ages 7 to 40, visited Capitol Hill to seek support for their war on hunger from 50 members of Congress.

AMYA President Bilal Rana said his group wanted members of Congress to link the group with like-minded organizations to help feed more than 1 million Americans this year.

“As Ahmadi Muslims, helping the community is part of our faith,” Rana said after addressing reporters at the Rayburn House Office Building. “Currently, demand for food is more than supply, and we've just got to do more to save more lives.”

California Democratic Reps. Jackie Speier and Michael Honda addressed the group and expressed support and solidarity with the group. Honda addressed the group wearing its black and white scarves.

While expressing regret that more than 17 million children were among those facing hunger, Honda encouraged the group to increase its efforts.

“With your work, your presence, your faith and your persistence, we shall achieve that more perfect nation,” Honda said.

Speier, co-chair of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Caucus, criticized the food stamp cuts, saying they amounted to “taking food out of the mouths of children and poor people.”

“For a week … I would encourage you take up the food stamp challenge, and it is quite simple — all you need to do is live on $4.50 a day. That is all. No more lattes, no more visits to Starbucks, no more big bucks, $4.50,” she said.

Speier was among members of Congress who took up the challenge in 2011, and she said it was “a very humbling experience.”

“You can’t concentrate on anything else. All you think about is ‘what am I gonna eat?’ ‘what am I gonna eat?’ and at the end of the day when you go to bed, it is like you have a break in your stomach,” she said.

After the news conference, the group embarked on its annual Walk for Humanity in the streets of Washington, D.C., to raise awareness and funds for their cause. The group aims to raise more than $100,000 this year. Last year, it raised $100,000, and it raised $90,000 in 2012.

In addition to efforts to fight hunger, the group carries out blood and clothing drives, clean-ups and adopt-a-family programs to support at-risk families.

Harry Misiko, a copy editor of the Daily Nation in Nairobi, is the 2014 Alfred Friendly Fellow at The Post.
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