Get Angry: Proposed Food Stamp Cuts are Attack on Working Poor
Mariah Craven is the director of communications and marketing at Washington Area Women’s Foundation, the only donor-supported, public foundation solely focused on improving the lives of women and girls in the Washington metro area. Prior to working in the nonprofit field, Mariah was a broadcast journalist. She writes and makes short films about a variety of topics ranging from entertainment to poverty and civil rights to social media. You can find her on Twitter at: @Mariah_Craven.
Up to five million people who use food stamps are at risk of losing those benefits due to changes proposed by Congress to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), according to a new report from the Health Impact Project (HIP). Here are three reasons why you should be outraged about this.
1. Cutting off five million people – including the particularly vulnerable 1.4 million children and 876,000 seniors – could cost all of us more money than it saves. According to the report, “increases in poverty due to the changes proposed… could have important implications for state and federal government health care costs.” People who live in poverty and people who don’t have enough to eat are at an increased risk of illness, and children experiencing food insecurity are more likely to be hospitalized. The HIP report estimates that the cost of diabetes alone over the next 10 years would rival the $20 billion that might be saved by the proposed changes to SNAP benefits.
One of the most memorable site visits I’ve ever been on was a tour of a nonprofit that helps women who have HIV or who are at risk of contracting HIV. In one of the rooms at the nonprofit there’s always food and paper plates, plastic bags and foil. Before they began offering food on a regularly basis, the nonprofit employees had discovered that when they provided their clients with funds to purchase their HIV medication, the women would use the money to buy food for their families instead of getting their prescriptions filled. They were getting sicker but their children weren’t hungry. Now, they can take food home and can afford their medications. People shouldn’t have to choose between eating and getting their medical needs taken care of.
2. More low-income families would likely slip into even deeper poverty. An estimated 47 million people in the U.S. currently receive food stamp benefits. According to the report, 97 percent of households receiving SNAP benefits have net incomes at or below the poverty line. Over 42 percent live in deep poverty – meaning that a family of four people brings in just $960 per month. This household would receive about $380 in snap benefits each month – or about $3.17 per day per family member. If you’re raising a family on $960 per month, every dollar you lose hurts and every dollar you gain goes toward the basic necessities needed to survive.
It’s estimated that half a million people who might lose their benefits are going hungry even with food stamps. In all likelihood, that number will increase if these cuts are made. Rather than snatching food away from hungry families, we should really be increasing benefits while we focus on more programs that offer families permanent ways to lift themselves out of poverty. The best way to decrease the amount of money the U.S. spends on SNAP benefits is to lower the number of people who need those benefits.
3. Cutting SNAP benefits is simply punishing people for being poor. The conservative members of Congress who are proposing these cuts say fraud and waste in the program are rampant, which simply isn’t true and demonizes recipients and supporters. Food stamp fraud is at an all-time low and the program generates $1.70 for every dollar spent. “That makes it one of the most efficient ways to stimulate economic activity through government programs,” says ThinkProgress.org.
If these facts don’t make you sufficiently angry, think about how much food is wasted in this country, how much we have in the U.S., particularly compared to other countries where there’s not enough to go around, and think about the fact that there’s no reason for anyone to go hungry in the United States. Then contact your representative in Congress.
The opinions expressed here are my personal opinions. Content published here is not read or approved by my employer and does not necessarily represent the views or opinions of my employer.