America faces a growing food insecurity challenge, a temporary increase in SNAP benefits can help
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COVID-19 has cut a devastating path across the country. Texas is no exception. Throughout our state, and within Houston specifically, Texans have been forced to reckon with the social and economic impacts of the pandemic.

In a single moment, we saw hunger skyrocket across our state as vital industries to Texas’ economy plummeted. Low-income families have been especially hard hit by this pandemic, and many newly unemployed Texans are finding themselves food insecure for the first time.

In Houston, long lines of cars at food distribution sites across our city show this problem is widespread. The size and scope of this economic shock has made an impression even greater than what our community saw during Hurricane Harvey. While cities are beginning to reopen, the number of people experiencing hunger during these tough times continues to grow.

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Houston is our home, and right now, our city needs help. As the mayor of Houston and a Houston Astros player, this has been our rallying cry here in Houston, but it can and should be a rallying cry for the entire nation.

According to Feeding America projections, Texas could be home to the most children facing food insecurity (2.3 million) nationwide and could rank 7th overall for food insecurity, with 5.8 million people at risk.

This is not just a Texas or a Houston problem. Feeding America’s data paint a similar picture for the entire country. Pre-pandemic, 37.2 million people around the country were food insecure. That figure is projected to grow by 17 million to an astounding 54 million people experiencing food insecurity as a result of the pandemic.

As professional athletes, these communities are where our fans live and raise their families. They are our homes, too. We all need to do our part to ensure underserved children and families continue to get the support they need during these difficult times.

Whether it is partnering with the Houston Food Bank and Houston ISD or raising money and awareness through philanthropy, we’ve been able to make a difference in Houston that can and should be replicated nationwide.

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For example, in April of this year, Alex launched FEEDHOU, a now $2 million fundraising campaign to help feed families affected by the pandemic in partnership with The Houston Food Bank. Together with his fiancé Reagan Howard, the pair have helped distribute food to thousands of families at various pick-up locations around our city. We would love to see others replicate this same effort in other cities and states.

Seeing the work put in by so many volunteers in-person to support families suffering as a result of COVID-19 has been a truly humbling experience. Mayor Turner and his team, community partners, and fellow Houstonians like Alex have all risen to the challenge to fight hunger, but more must be done.

That is why we are jointly calling for Congress to take action to tackle this issue.

In the next federal relief package, we are asking Congress to temporarily increase Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits by 15 percent. This policy change will provide immediate relief to those in need by assisting families in our communities to put food on the table. No child should have to go to bed without a meal, and this temporary increase is one giant step to ensure this does not happen.

Additionally, a temporary increase in SNAP benefits will help stimulate the economy through increased spending at local businesses, such as your neighborhood grocery store. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, every dollar in new SNAP benefits increases economic production by $1.54.

As we forge a path through this crisis, we cannot leave behind those who have been disproportionately affected. Finding solutions that uplift our entire communities is critical to moving forward through this historic moment.

As professional athletes, we have tremendous power and opportunity to be part of the solution in our communities. We encourage you to join us in calling on Congress to seize this opportunity to make a difference in the fight against hunger and food insecurity.

Sylvester Turner is mayor of Houston and Alex Bregman is third baseman of the Houston Astros.