WASHINGTON -- Eight million children are hungry or at risk of being hungry in the United States, and prevention of hunger should be a top congressional priority, maintains Sen. Jim Sasser.
Sasser, D-Tenn., testified yesterday before a Senate Budget Committee hearing to promote his Childhood Hunger Prevention Act of 1991, which would channel more than $250 million into nutrition programs and seek rule changes in federal-assistance programs.
"I was pleased to see that the president's budget this year invests more heavily in some children's programs than in the recent past," he said. "But I am afraid that the budget may not go far enough, and in places, it contradicts its own best intentions."
Sasser said he was pleased that President Bush's 1992 budget proposes increases in the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program (WIC), immunizations and programs on infant mortality. The increases total $377 million.
But Sasser questioned minimal increases for Head Start and significant cuts or freezes in other essential child-welfare and nutrition programs:
"Some may say that budget constraints are so tight that we cannot afford major initiatives or program expansions. I contend, however, that we can ill afford not to invest in our children."
Committee member Pete V. Domenici, R-N.M., reminded the committee that increases in certain programs may mean the elimination of others.
Sasser's bill would increase the amount of money appropriated for child nutrition, with most of the funding going to WIC and the food stamp program. It would seek $250 million more in 1992 for WIC. The funding increase would enable more than 400,000 additional low-income women, infants and children to receive such benefits.
It also would provide funding for food programs for homeless preschoolers, and boost the number of children eligible to participate in the federal food programs.