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Congress cuts SNAP funding to America’s vulnerable

Special to The Dallas Examiner | 9/26/2013, 3:16 p.m.
Texas households with children suffered extraordinarily high rates of food hardship during the recession, according to a new national report ...
Rahab Kinity waits for assistance at the Catholic Parish Outreach Food Pantry in Raleigh, N.C., Sept. 13. Unable to work due to cancer, she applied weeks ago for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and she is still waiting. Next year, under the Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act, U.S. citizens like Kinity may not be eligible for the program. Gerry Broome

Special to The Dallas Examiner

Austin – Texas households with children suffered extraordinarily high rates of food hardship during the recession, according to a new national report released Sept. 19. In five years of telephone surveys conducted through 2012, over 1 in 4 – 27.4 percent – of these households said they couldn’t consistently afford enough food.

Despite this high level of food hardship, Congress debated the H.R. 3102, Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act, a bill that over a 10-year period will cut $39 billion from funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – a government program known as food stamps – which aids many families with children and is the backbone of our national response to hunger.

More than 4 million Texans received assistance from SNAP in an average month in 2012. The majority of those recipients were children, the elderly and disabled citizens.

“Programs like SNAP are the backbone of our nation’s response to food insecurity,” said Celia Cole, CEO of the Texas Food Bank Network. “Food banks and other private charities are already struggling to fill the gaps. Congress should not turn its back on struggling families in their time of need.”

The TFBN provides a unified voice among food banks in support of their common mission to end hunger in Texas.

“Given the struggles that continue to persist in Texas, it is outrageous that Congress [would] even [debate] cuts to nutrition programs like SNAP,” said Celia Cole, CEO of TFBN. “Our elected leaders should act to help, not hurt struggling families.”

The report, published by the Food Research and Action Center in coordination with Gallup-Healthways Polling, is consistent with USDA data released earlier this month. The earlier federal data showed that 18.4 percent of Texas households were food insecure during the years 2010 to 2012. New data also released Sept. 18 by the U.S. Census Bureau showed that the national poverty rate has remained at elevated rates since the recession began.

“All these data tell the same story – hunger and poverty rates spiked at the beginning of the recession and have stayed high ever since,” Cole said. “Despite modest gains in the economy, people at the low end of the economic ladder are still struggling to afford basic needs like food. Cutting SNAP now would hurt these families and undermine our economic recovery.”

Cole also stated that despite a news program last month, examining the growth of the federally funded program, cutting back is not a logical solution.

“When I see someone parked illegally in a handicapped spot, I think badly of that person as an individual,” Cole illustrated. “But it doesn’t make me think that we should cut back on accommodations for people with disabilities, or think badly of all people with disabilities. Too often, when we see abuse in programs for the poor the opposite reaction occurs: we blast the program as a whole and assume that everyone on it is out to beat the system – and only because they are poor.”