• Angelina Jolie penned an open letter to Senate and House leadership asking for increased food assistance benefits during the coronavirus pandemic
  • Jolie cited families whose children relied on meals from U.S. public schools as a prominent reason to increase food assistance
  • She has asked for an increase of $15 billion in benefits to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

Angelina Jolie has begun lobbying U.S. Congress for increased food assistance to families across the country struggling to remain fed amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Academy Award-winning actress and director penned an open letter to House and Senate leaders and asked for increased benefits to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP.

Jolie specifically talks about the help SNAP provides for families with children in public schools.

“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,” Jolie wrote in the letter acquired by USA Today.

Around 22 million children from low-income homes rely on breakfasts and lunches provided by their schools to be fed daily. However, most states were forced to close schools in response to the coronavirus pandemic and are going to remain closed for the rest of the academic year.

Advocates for Children of New York Executive Director Kim Sweet told VICE that “school may be the one place where they are guaranteed hot meals and medical care. We know that as the city weighs the possible benefits of school closure, they're also weighing the possible risks of temporarily shattering critical social service centers.”

To make up for the closures, advocate groups like Hunger Free America have tried to get increased funding to Meals on Wheels and other programs to fill the gaps created by school closures.

“This just shows how horrible it is that we don’t have paid sick leave, we don’t have guaranteed child care, we don’t have universal healthcare, that people don’t have enough money for food,” Hunger Free America CEO Joel Berg told VICE. “These disasters tend to rip the bandage off the wounds that were sort of covered, and so when these things happen, you have a better view of all the festering social problems that were there before but just became worse.”

Jolie asked Congress to increase SNAP benefits by $15 billion immediately and pushed for another increase down the road. Democrats tried to push through a similar increase with the last stimulus package passed in April that ultimately failed due to a lack of Republican support.

“While strengthening SNAP will not alleviate all of the challenges low-income families are facing during the public health emergency, it will help ensure that fewer children go to bed hungry in our country,” Jolie said.