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Angelina Jolie Urges Congress to Increase Food Stamp Benefits

Actress Angelina Jolie at the Salt panel on the 2010 San Diego Comic Con in San Diego, California.
Actress Angelina Jolie at the Salt panel on the 2010 San Diego Comic Con in San Diego, California. (Image via Gage Skidmore)

With millions of children not attending school due to Covid-19, the Oscar-winning actress and humanitarian is drawing attention to fight hunger that may result from this scenario.

Indeed, about half of U.S. students rely on free or reduced-price meals at school. This is being disrupted by stay-at-home orders that are affecting nations all over the world, with the majority of schools in the U.S. discontinuing classes for the remainder of this academic year.

Schools across the country have tried to continue providing free lunches to go for those in need, but some of these programs were halted or limited when workers contracted COVID-19. There have also been free food banks for citizens who are struggling to make ends meet during the pandemic. Cars line up in droves to pick up free food — but the demand is high and supplies often run out.

Jolie, who has been famously involved with the United Nations since 2001, wrote a letter to top congressional leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

The 44-year old actress and mother of six asked that Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits be increased to help children who she says will go hungry because schools are closed and parents are out of work.

“Many of the most vulnerable children in America have missed nearly 740 million meals at school, due to closure resulting from the rapid spread of coronavirus. With parents facing lost jobs and wages, many of these children are going hungry,” she wrote in the April 20 letter.

The Maleficent star expressed shock that America could suffer from such poverty that results in children going hungry. Prior to sending the letter, she had also spoken with local food banks and organizations — including No Kid Hungry, a non-profit that fights childhood hunger in America.

The organizations were critical of cuts to food assistance programs under the Trump administration, citing that it results in short-term increases that don’t help families in the long term.

Congress has already increased food assistance benefits by more than $15 billion during the pandemic but Jolie and other advocates argue more is needed. Democrats proposed such a goal last month for a 15% increase in benefits for SNAP — but it failed to pass with Republicans in the last round of stimulus funding. There is hope that the subject of increasing SNAP benefits can come up again, as Congress plans another large stimulus package aimed at helping the country recover.

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