The nation's poverty rate remains stuck at 15 percent. It's slightly higher here in California, where a third more people are living in poverty than in 2006, the last year before the Great Recession.

More children qualify for free lunches at school. More people of all ages are turning to food banks, churches and other charitable programs for help stretching their budgets.

And a bill passed Thursday by the House would literally take food from the mouths of millions of hungry Americans.

The Republican-sponsored bill would cut $4 billion a year from the food stamp program, which provides supplemental nutrition to about 1 in 7 Americans, many of them senior citizens and working families whose income isn't sufficient to make ends meet.

The cut amounts to 5 percent of food stamp funding. If the House bill becomes law, 350,000 in California alone would lose their assistance.

Supporters of the bill say the program is growing out of control and needs to be cut down to its pre-recession size.

That ignores the fact that many people have benefited little, if at all, from an uneven economic recovery. Unemployment remains stubbornly high, and many people are working less than full-time.

Along with the latest poverty numbers, the Census Bureau recently reported that average household income in the United States was flat in 2012 and, adjusted for inflation, median household income is lower now than it was in 1989.

As Washington Post columnist Neil Irwin put it, "This isn't a lost decade for economic gains for Americans. It is a lost generation."

Is it any wonder that so many people are having trouble keeping food on the table?

Among the dubious arguments offered for cutting funding from food stamps is that their availability discourages people from seeking work. But the average benefit is $5.10 a day, about the price of a box of breakfast cereal.

The House bill would allow states to require able-bodied recipients with children more than a year old to work 20 hours a week. The requirements would be applicable to all parents whose children are over age 6 and attending school. Benefits for single, childless adults would be severely limited.

Unlike the work requirements included in the 1996 welfare reform law, there's no provision for jobs, job training or community enforcement. And, as we already noted, one of the reasons so many people are on food stamps is because unemployment is still a problem in most of the country. Provisions of the bill also would drive up costs for states, which manage the program.

The net result is likely to be greater pressure on programs such as the Redwood Empire Food Bank that already are coping with rising demand.

A broad-based economic recovery would reduce the need for food stamps and other safety net programs. That's a bigger task than telling people to go hungry. Unfortunately, House Republicans don't seem to be up to the challenge.