Hoops star defends food stamp program

Hoops star defends food stamp program
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A former WNBA champion and 2004 Olympic gold medalist is urging lawmakers to bolster support for the food stamp program, calling it "essential" to reducing child hunger.

Ruth Riley spoke before the House Committee on Agriculture Subcommittee on Nutrition Tuesday as lawmakers weigh reforms to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).


Riley, now an activist against child hunger, recalled how she grew up relying on “what my family called ‘food stamps.’”

“I often joke that growing up I was tall, lanky and uncoordinated. Looking back, I can’t imagine what my path would have been if I’d been tall, lanky, uncoordinated ... and hungry,” the hoops star said in her opening statement.

“We talk about jobs, but we overlook the impact that hunger-related issues have on creating a job-ready generation.”

Riley was one of four witnesses to weigh in on the benefits of food stamps in reducing childhood poverty.

Work requirements for program recipients sparked debate during the hearing.

In his opening statement, Ranking Member Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) urged his colleagues to focus on SNAP as a means of reducing hunger, not unemployment.

"SNAP in and of itself is not a jobs program. It’s a food program,” he said.

But Ron Haskins, Co-Director of the Center on Children and Families at the Brookings Institution, argued that food stamp assistance was an important incentive to help single mothers keep jobs and improve their economic standing.

“Every mom who goes to work, even in a low-wage job, has a greater chance to get out of poverty,” Haskins said.

He cautioned that federal work requirements should not be too stringent, however, as single mothers overwhelmed by the demands of work and childrearing responsibilities risk becoming “disconnected mothers.”

Rep. Ted YohoTheodore (Ted) Scott YohoKat Cammack wins Florida GOP primary in bid for Ted Yoho's seat The Hill's Convention Report: Democrats gear up for Day Two of convention Eyes turn to Ocasio-Cortez as she seeks to boost Biden MORE (R-Fla.) said the debate over the food stamp program obscured larger questions.

“Why are parents having children, multiple children, if they can’t have the responsibility to take care of them?” he asked. “To me, we’re treating a symptom and not treating the underlying problem.”

“Without food, it wouldn’t have mattered how great my mom was,” Riley said.

Del. Stacey Plaskett (D-Virgin Islands) criticized Yoho's remarks.

“I think this symptom is us, not the irresponsibility of the parents,” she said. “If children don’t eat, that’s an indictment on all of us.”

Riley agreed with those remarks.

“My mom obviously didn’t intend to be a single parent. My father left,” she said. “These programs are essential to fill in the gaps.”