Don't cut SNAP from Farm Bill

It’s hardly just corn growers who should be irate. Indeed, everyone with a conscience should be mad as hell at those in Congress who have signed up behind a heartless Farm Bill proposal to cut $40 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps). Their plan would throw millions of people out of the program and cut benefits for millions more.

If you are a man, woman, parent, business owner, farmer, teacher or veteran, you should be furious. If you’re old, young, Black, Hispanic or White, your blood should be boiling. Why? Because we all stand to lose big.

Seniors. SNAP is a lifeline for millions who have no or insufficient Social Security. The House Republican plan will leave many of them hungrier, increase their health problems by denying needed nutrition, and strip their already-meager bank accounts as a precondition of eligibility.

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Children. Rampant unemployment and the proliferation of low-wage jobs have resulted in one out of two American children spending at least a few months during childhood on food stamps. The good news? Food stamps help boost their health, learning and long-term productivity. The bad news? House Republicans have made children prime targets for cuts.

Parents. When food runs short, parents frequently skip meals so children have enough to eat. Hungry, stressed and feeling guilty, parents’ suffering hurts their children as well. Through their SNAP cuts, House Republicans have shown contempt for low-income parents, including millions of working parents.

Women. SNAP cuts are particularly brutal to women. Because they tend to earn less and be the primary caregivers to children, 60 percent of working-age adult SNAP recipients are women. In addition, 67 percent of elderly SNAP recipients are women.

Rural Americans. Too many members of Congress would like us to believe that the Farm Bill provides agriculture subsidies for rural areas and food stamps for urban areas. The truth is, hunger is as prevalent in rural America as in urban America. And during this tough economic time, SNAP benefits are boosting rural and urban economies alike.

Business Owners. One of SNAP’s many strengths is that it uses efficient American markets like grocery stores, superstores, farmers markets and bank-issued debit cards to get food to needy people. 

Farmers. Farmers have supported SNAP for decades. Since they can only be used to purchase food, SNAP benefits are spent quickly at stores. The benefits pay farmers, grocers, truck drivers and others who supply our food, while providing a quick boost to the local economy. Approximately $.16 on every grocery dollar spent goes back to farmers.

Educators. Nearly half of SNAP enrollees are children. SNAP cuts will mean that hundreds of thousands of kids also will not receive school lunches, which help children be more attentive in class, have better attendance and fewer disciplinary problems.

Health care advocates – and deficit hawks.  Recent research from the Health Impact Project found that the potentially 5.1 million adults and children who could lose SNAP benefits would ultimately suffer more poverty and poorer health. That could translate into nearly $15 billion to manage diabetes alone – at taxpayers’ expense.

Veterans.  At least 900,000 struggling veterans and low-paid enlisted active duty military families receive SNAP each month. More than $98 million in SNAP benefits were redeemed at military commissaries during Fiscal Year 2012. Proposed work requirements would be particularly hard on veterans living in areas of high unemployment.

Voters recognize that SNAP cuts will harm a wide swath of Americans. Democrats oppose cuts by a 83-17 percent margin, Republicans by 53-47 percent and Independents by 72-28 percent. Why? Because we are all vulnerable, whether Black, White or Hispanic; rural or urban; conservative or liberal; man or woman; child or adult; business owner or worker.

When you consider the cross section of Americans whose lives stand to be harmed by the House Republicans’ plan to cut SNAP by $40 billion over the next ten years, it’s hard not to get angry.  Let’s call this coldblooded lack of humanity what it is, and demand that Congress pass a farm bill with no cuts to SNAP.

Weill is president of the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC).