Counting Towards Economic Justice

Sincethe second day of Passover, Jews have been participating in the ritual of counting the Omer. As we count the Omer, we look forward to the celebration of receiving the Torah at Sinai and the joyous celebrations of harvest and springtime. .

In Leviticus (23:15-22), Shavuot is linked with the commandments of pei-ah (leaving crops at the corners of the field for the poor) and sh’chicha (leaving the fallen grain for the poor). Even as we celebrate the first fruits and the bounty of the land, we are to remember those in need. On Shavuot, we also read the Book of Ruth, which has many lessons about economic justice. When Ruth went into the fields to glean, she met Boaz, who showed her additional kindness, instructing his workers to drop extra sheaves of grain.

These values of g’milut chasadim (loving-kindness) inform our call of social justice and empowerment to make a difference.  In this way, Shavout is an opportunity to recommit ourselves to economic justice. In the United States, in 2013, over 49 million Americans lived in a household that faced difficulty affording enough food.

Though child nutrition programs like the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs, already exist, these programs need to be strengthened. When a child doesn’t have enough food to eat, they cannot focus as well in school, leading to lower performance. Kids experiencing hunger thus are kept in a cycle of poverty, making it hard for them to advance in society. Three out of four public school teachers say that students regularly come to school hungry. Breakfast is connected to benefits in the classroom: a majority of teachers see students paying better attention in class and having improved attendance.

Earlier this week, the House Education and Workforce Committee held a hearing on child nutrition programs and the programs’ effectiveness. This September, Congress will need to address issues regarding reauthorization for child nutrition programs that are crucial to helping kids stay engaged in schools. While the programs are permanently authorized, Congress uses the reauthorization process to reallocate funding when the previous funding stream expires.

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 – which includes programs such as the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programsthe Summer Food Service Program and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) – will sunset in September 2015. It is essential that these programs stay funded so that children can get the support that they need.  Urge your Members of Congress to fund important child nutrition programs today!

Check out the RAC’s economic justice page to learn more.

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Melanie Fineman

About Melanie Fineman

Melanie Fineman is a 2014-2015 Eisendrath Legislative Assistant at the RAC. She graduated from Brown University in 2014 and is originally from Newton, Massachusetts, where she is a member of Temple Shalom of Newton.

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