For decades, the federal Food Stamp program has provided funds to millions of the hungriest Americans to supplement their food purchases. A few years ago, the paper Food Stamps were replaced by an EBT card that recipients can swipe at the food store. This lifted the veil of shame that many felt as they had to hand the paper coupons to a cashier and it greatly reduced fraud and trafficking. The Department of Agriculture which runs the program also changed the name to SNAP, The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
SNAP is not a welfare program. It is a wage supplement for people in our low wage economy and a nutritional supplement as well. Almost all the people who receive it are children, families and seniors. The program was designed to work with the economic cycle. When the economy, employment and wages go down, the number of recipients goes up. When the economy recovers and unemployment recedes, the number of people on the program goes down. It has always worked that way and is working very well now.
In 2007 before the Great Recession hit, there were slightly more than 27 million people on SNAP. As the economy worsened and more people were unemployed for longer periods of time the SNAP rolls grew to more than 46 million people as of this year. Without SNAP we would have massive hunger in our country. The New York Times reported in 2010 that SNAP was the only income for 6 million people. There are countless stories of people who were never hungry or out of work before but who are now and have been for a year or more. Where would these people be without SNAP?
There are members of Congress who want to cut or cap or block grant SNAP. Any of these moves would destroy the integrity of the program and prevent it from responding to the next fiscal or other crisis. Never in the history of the program has it been capped or block granted. Every president, both Democrats and Republicans have supported the program.
If you want to get involved:
-Let your senators and congress members know the work you are doing with hungry people and tell them to oppose cuts to the program.
- Collect stories of people who are on SNAP and who feel strongly about the program. Present them to your local media and ask the media outlets to feature the positive force that the program is including personal stories from recipients.
- When people come to you for food, connect them to local organizations that can sign them up for SNAP or give them the number of the National Hunger Hotline 1-866-3-HUNGRY.
-There is a most effective program operating in several states called the Benefit Bank that signs people up for a whole range of federal benefits including SNAP.
Politicians will try to tell you that we cannot afford SNAP and many other programs that help poor and middle class folks. The truth is that we cannot afford not to fund them unless we want severe hunger in the streets and homes of our country.